In a span of five minutes, everything we knew about the mile changed. Mary Cain went for the national prep indoor mile record at the New Balance Games in New York, New York while Galen Rupp attempted to break the American indoor mile record at the Boston Terrier Invitational.
The rabbits had their schedule and the challengers were prepared. The only factor we didn’t consider was the time.
No, not the time of the race clock. The time when the two races would go off. It just so happened that both record attempts occurred simultaneously in what was one of the most historic few minutes in American middle-distance running history.
Cain once again toed the line against the professionals to try and break the the girls’ indoor mile record of 4:38.5 set by Debbie Heald. The mark had stood since 1972 and was the oldest standing record in girls’ track and field.
The past tense is used to describe the situation because just like we saw at the UW Indoor Preview, Cain would once again rise to the occasion. Ashley Higginson doubled back from the her one mile steeplechase victory to rabbit the field through 400m in 67-seconds.
Cain smartly tucked herself into the pack as she passed 800m in 2:17, which was two-seconds under national record pace.
She moved up into fifth at 1200m, which she passed in 3:27. Then with one lap to go, Cain slid into third. As she came off the turn, the win was out of the question, but the fall of the record was inevitable.
Chaos back in Austin, TX.
Photo: Jeremy Hayes
While Cain took her victory lap in New York, Rupp had 400m to go in his attempt in Boston.
BU’s Stuart Ross and fellow Nike Oregon Project teammate Dorian Ulrey took Rupp through 400m in 56.7, 800m in 1:54.6, and 1200m in 2:52.84.
Some said he wasn’t going to run while some even doubted the attempt. Even though we clicked the watch, read the splits, and then looked back up at the live stream, we still didn’t believe what was happening.
“He’s a 10,000m runner,” we mumbled. “He ran 3:57 a few weeks ago. No chance he's going to drop 8-seconds in mile.” In the end, no amount of rational thought could describe the image of the BU facility with one lap to go.
The rabbits had stepped to the side, but Rupp was not alone. The thousands of packed fans at the BU arena wanted to see history. They wanted Rupp to kick for home. They were trying to will him to an American record.
The signs were all there... how could this not happen! The race went off at 3:50pm, his bib number was 350, and of course, he wanted to run sub-3:50.
But in the final meters, it seemed as if this incredible story would not have a perfect ending.
Rupp would just fall short of the 3:49.89 American record with his 3:50.92 finish.
However, the Olympic silver medalist in the 10,000m comes away as the fifth-fastest indoor miler of all-time. Not bad for someone who, while in college, was told that he'd never break four minutes in the mile.
The one man who probably saw all of this coming is now with Rupp right down the road administering a post-race workout. Alberto Salazar - keep doing what you're doing.
Cain and Rupp are just the beginning in what should be an unforgettable year in American track and field. There have only been a few indoor meets so far this season, but if this type of running is going to continue throughout the year, we're in for a wild ride.