Sports

13 runners break 4-minute barrier in Raleigh’s Sir Walter Miler race

At Alltech’s annual global conference in Lexington in May 2014, Pearse Lyons presented a humanitarian award to Lopez Lomong, right. Lomong told of being kidnapped by soldiers in his native Sudan at age 6, escaping and after 10 years in a Kenyan refugee camp coming to America where he became a two-time Olympic runner and carried the U.S. flag at the 2008 Beijing Games.
At Alltech’s annual global conference in Lexington in May 2014, Pearse Lyons presented a humanitarian award to Lopez Lomong, right. Lomong told of being kidnapped by soldiers in his native Sudan at age 6, escaping and after 10 years in a Kenyan refugee camp coming to America where he became a two-time Olympic runner and carried the U.S. flag at the 2008 Beijing Games. teblen@herald-leader.com

A total of 13 men broke the 4-minute barrier in the fifth annual Sir Walter Miler race on Aug. 3, amounting to the most American runners ever to run under 4 minutes in a single race.

Since Roger Bannister first accomplished the feat in 1954, breaking 4 minutes in the mile race has been the standard of greatness for middle-distance athletes within the sport. A total of 521 different U.S. runners have seen the clock read 3:59 or better after completing the 1609-meter race, according to Track and Field News, with the last two being added to the list on the Meredith College track on Friday.

“This race is all about getting guys under 4 minutes,” co-race director Sandy Roberts said. “We had two guys get under 4 minutes for the first time which was a huge thing for us. It was a spectacular night.”

Lopez Lomong won the race with a time of 3:53.86, setting a meet record and coming less than a tenth of second short of the fastest time ever run in the state. Lomong was one of two former Olympians competing in the event and was the flag bearer for the U.S. during the 2008 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony.

Charlene Lipsey finished with a time of 4:27.28 to win the women’s race, and an additional four women broke the 4:30 threshold, which is seen as the female equivalent of the sub-4 minute mile in the sport.

Roberts, a Broughton High School graduate, his brother Logan, and Pat Price began the race in 2014 when Sandy himself had his eyes on track and field’s most storied accomplishment. Roberts noted that Sir Walter Miler was created for elite runners, like himself, who weren’t quite good enough to compete in larger national meets to come run a fast time, and now the race has ballooned into one of the faster competitions in the country.

“It’s our fifth year doing the race, and I think word has gotten out that this is the place to come run fast and be apart of an incredible running community that hosts well and cheers loud,” Roberts said. “Runners are starting to want to be apart of Sir Walter, and of course the times are speaking for themselves.”

For the second year in a row, around three to four thousand people from the Raleigh community came out to the local track to witness elite racing. Spectators once again filled the outer lanes of the track to cheer on the world-class athletes, creating a unique and exciting race environment that already benefited from its unusual after-dark start time.

No one had broken the 4-minute barrier in Raleigh since 1974 before the inception of Sir Walter Miler. Since, the race has had 39 runners do so in the City of Oaks.

Roberts said that, contrary to most track races, Sir Walter Miler has never been entirely about who wins, but rather about how many runners can reach the sub-4 minute achievement. He hopes to continue to grow the race, with the goal being a turnout of 10,000.

“Year in, year out we’re starting to get more non-track people to come out and watch,” Roberts said. “The goal is to get people in the community to come out for an hour and 25 minutes and watch track and be connected with it. You know, be on the track, see how fast they’re going and really be a part of helping runners make history. I think not only the running community but Raleigh at large is starting to feel ownership of this race.”

“Everybody at some point in their life has run a mile,” Roberts said. “It’s the most recognizable distance. So I think for us to be competing and racing in this mile, even people who don’t even care about the sport can relate to their best mile time or just how fast these folks are going for four laps.”

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