AT END OF SEASON, FIFTH AVENUE MILE IS BOTH CELEBRATION AND COMPETITION
By Chris Lotsbom, @ChrisLotsbom
(c) 2013 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved. Used with permission.

NEW YORK (20-Sep) -- Sunday's NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile presented by Nissan will have a USA Championships feel, just without any added pressure. Twelve American men and eight women are set to toe the starting line, among them 2011 IAAF World Champion Jenny Simpson, 2013 World Championships silver medalist Nick Symmonds, and past race winners Bernard Lagat and Shannon Rowbury. All unanimously agree that the event serves as a celebration of the recently completed track seasons.

"This is the perfect place to end the season," said Lagat, the 2011 victor and last year's runner-up. "The Fifth Avenue Mile is different than a regular mile. It's different from what we run on the track and the atmosphere is great. Bringing the best athletes from all over the world, I'm real excited."

With August's IAAF World Championships in the rear view mirror and the IAAF Diamond League having since completed, the elite athletes entered here look at Sunday's race as one last chance to lace up the racing flats and have some fun in the Big Apple. Twenty blocks of Fifth Avenue will be closed down for the race, their chance to shine in the city's spotlight.

"It's real nice to have these races after the World Championships where you've gotten yourself to your peak fitness, you're excited, you can smell the barn and your getting ready for your break," said Rowbury, a two-time champion. "To come back home [to the USA] and compete against some of the top women in your event once again is nice to do."

Americans have had great success in recent years at the event. For two straight years, an American male has crossed the East 60th Street finish first, while Patriot women hold a four-year winning streak. Though the race has the appearance of an American championships, the pre-race thought process is far from it.

"It's something that is more relaxing to do. You have no stress like U.S. Nationals where you have to make the team," said Lagat. "That is why this event produces the fastest results."

Since the event returned to a high level in 2005 after a six-year fallow period, the slowest winning time has been 3:54.1 (Kevin Sullivan of Canada in 2006).  Australia's Craig Mottram ran the fastest time in that period (3:49.9 in 2005).  The event record remains 3:47.52 by Sydney Maree set in the inaugural year in 1981.

On the women's side, the slowest winning time in since 2005 was 4:28.0 by both Canada's Carmen Douma-Hussar (2005) and American Sara Hall (2006). The fastest recent time was 4:18.6 by Britain's Lisa Dobriskey in 2008.  The event record is 4:16.68 by American PattiSue Plumer (1990).

For this year's World Championships silver medalist Jenny Simpson, Sunday's race has added motivation. On September 6, Simpson fell to the track in her final 1500m track race of the season in Brussels. Sunday she looks to come back and end the season on a high note.

"This race is a combination of both a competitive effort and a celebration of the season," she said. "Coming here and ending here is always a highlight of wrapping up the season."

Though there is a celebratory feel, all of the athletes assure that they are going to race all-out to the finish. To the winner goes $5,000 and the satisfaction of ending the 2013 campaign with a win.

"This is the last one, no stress, but you are going to take it serious and do your best," said Lagat. "At the end, when you cross that line, the season is over and it is the best feeling."