John Habib’s City Sports: Manchester Mile is all downhill from there
By JOHN HABIB
New Hampshire Union Leader
John Mortimer said he was “flabbergasted” when former University of Connecticut All-American Brian Gagnon produced what is believed to be the fastest mile ever run on American soil when he won the inaugural HASLAW Manchester Mile last year.
“When we held the event, no one had an idea of how fast the course really was,” said Mortimer, whose Millennium Running company created and managed the event. “I mean, I knew it was fast, but I didn’t know how fast. I was just amazed when Brian won the race in 3:43.9. I figured going into the race that a 3:48 or 3:49 time would have been amazing.”
Now the question heading into the second annual Manchester Mile on Tuesday is: Is anyone in the field capable of topping Gagnon’s mark?
Mortimer believes someone can and explained the returning runners now know what to expect.
“Because they’re now familiar with the 180-foot drop, familiar with the course, the elite runners can decide how fast a pace they want to go,” he said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if someone beat last year’s mark.”
There’s more than $4,000 in prize and bonus money for this year’s race, providing financial incentive for runners to take aim at Gagnon’s standard.
“We are awarding $100 to the first runner who reaches the quarter-mile mark, $200 at the half-mile mark and $300 at the three-quarter mark,” Mortimer said. “It also appears the weather on Tuesday will be ideal for the runners, so there’s enough incentive there to believe a new record could be set this year.”
That’s “record” as in “event record.” Because of the course’s net drop in elevation, it is ineligible for national or international record status.
As was the case last year, a 5-kilometer race will precede the Manchester Mile, with runners in the earlier event finishing with the same downhill run as the milers. The 5K starts at 5:30 p.m., followed by the Manchester Mile at 6:19. Both races start at the top of Manchester’s Bridge Street at Derryfield Park and finish one mile west at Pulaski Park.
Pre-registration fees for participants 12 and older are $15 for the mile, $25 for the 5K race and $30 for both events. On Monday, the fee will increase by $5 for each event. Children 11 and younger can participate in either event for free.
Mortimer said 700 runners have registered for the races, and he’s expecting the number to climb close to 1,000 by race day.
He noted the mile race draws a different type of runner from those typically found at a marathon or even other 5Ks.
“The mile run really transcends sports,” Mortimer said. “A true competitor wants to see how fast they can run the mile. Everyone knows what it means to run a sub-four-minute mile, which is a heralded mark in sports.
“The times might not be official, but we’re going to draw many elite runners, including some who will be competing in the United States Olympic Trials this weekend,” he added. “That means anyone who doesn’t qualify for the U.S. Olympics and who comes here on Tuesday will be in great shape.”
Mortimer said he will know exactly which elite runners will be in the field by Monday. There’s a chance Gagnon and Rutgers University All-American Julie Culley, the top woman in last year’s Manchester Mile (4:13.7), will be back to defend their titles. Both Gagnon and Culley are competing in the U.S. Olympic Trials this weekend in Eugene, Ore.
The Manchester Mile is the fourth in a series of races organized by Mortimer and Millennium Running.
The first three races — Londonderry’s Millennium Mile (1,200 runners), Manchester’s Shamrock Shuffle (3,100) and Merrimack’s Rock’n Ribfest 5-miler (1,100) — each set registration records, as the Manchester Mile will next week.