Grassroots Racing

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August 12, 2015

One of my favorite parts of racing is the crowd. I love racing in front of huge stands full of people; the excitement and energy is contagious. Racing in front of a crowd turns a race into more of a performance, and for me, opens up that extra gear that’s missing in practice.

This past weekend I got to experience a truly incredible meet atmosphere at the Sir Walter Mile. There may not have been tens of thousands of people, but coming down that home stretch on the final lap sure seemed like a filled stadium. I was sprinting before I realized it, fueled on by the rows of fans packed so close on the track it was like running through a screaming tunnel.

sir walter 2

I know I’m a little biased about this race since I ran the best mile of my life, but it’s clear that something special happened on the track that night. It was more than just a track meet; it was a chance for the community and runners to connect through a mutual interest in track and field, and it’s really what our sport is all about. Over the weeks and months leading up to the race, the Sir Walter Mile spread the word, posted bios of the athletes, and shared stories of last year’s event. Consequently, the athletes were more than just numbers; we had stories and histories to our names.

These types of grassroots community track events are perfect to increase interest in track and field. They’re exciting, short, entertaining, and can lead to some breakthrough performances. Last Friday added two more men to the sub 4:00 club and three more women to the sub 4:30. Breaking 4:30 was an incredibly satisfying moment, but getting to celebrate it on the track with the American flag and cheering fans and running up and down the homestretch is one of my favorite running memories to date.

sir walter

There are not many opportunities for Americans to run track races in the States during the summer. This makes it difficult for runners like me who chose not to/were unable to race in Europe to find many chances to run fast times. My last four races prior to Sir Walter were road miles, and while I love road miles and the raw racing they display, our sport is on the track. For me, Sir Walter was essentially my one shot at a fast track race all summer, and I couldn’t have asked for any more.

My hope is that with the success of events such as the Sir Walter Mile, Flotrack Throwdown, and the Michigan Track Classic, track and field meets will continue popping up all over the country in a way that allows the community to experience world class races and the athletes to have high-caliber races in the States. In fact, Hoka One One is creating a similar event, the Long Island Mile, than I’m excited to participate in for its inaugural year on September 9th. With a little luck and community support cheering me on, I’m hoping for another sub-4:30 to end my year.

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