The mile remains among the most popular indoor contests in the United States, and the event will take center stage at the first two major American indoor fixtures when the indoor season kicks into full gear later this month.
Alan Webb, the most talked about American miler of this millennium, will headline the race at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games on January 27. Webb, who will celebrate his 24th birthday on next week, has been making waves over the distance since his prep days after setting the national high school records of 3:59.86 and 3:53.43 in 2001, the latter breaking a record held by Jim Ryun for 36 years. Some minor late spring injuries limited his appearances on the track over the summer, with his most notable performance coming over 10,000m at the Cardinal Invitational at Stanford in April, where his 27:34.72 was the fastest-ever debut over the distance by an American.
In Boston, Webb will face Chris Lukezic, the 22-year-old former Georgetown standout who captured the 2006 national indoor title on the same Boston track. A two-time U.S. junior champion and a semi-finalist at the 2005 World Championships in Helsinki, Lukezic reached the final at last year’s World Indoor Championships in Moscow, finishing seventh, and later last summer lowered his career best to 3:33.28 at Rome’s Golden Gala Golden League fixture.
The second stop of USA Track & Field’s Visa Championship series will be the Millrose Games in New York City on February 2, this year celebrating its centennial edition. On the narrow confines of Madison Square Garden’s 11 laps to the mile track, Bernard Lagat will be gunning for his fifth victory in the fabled Wanamaker Mile. Lagat, a two-time Olympic medallist for his native Kenya, last year produced a 3:29.68 season's best for 1500m, won a difficult 1500/5000m double at the U.S. championships, and at the last edition of the Millrose Games, defeated Kenenisa Bekele in their highly anticipated head-to-head after wins in the race in 2001, 2003 and 2005. A fifth victory would tie Lagat’s history’s second fastest 1500m runner, with Marcus O'Sullivan as the third winningest miler in meet history, behind only Eamonn Coghlan and Glenn Cunningham.
In New York, Lagat will face Australian Craig Mottram, who last season confirmed his credentials as one of the world's premiere racers. The 2005 bronze medallist at the World Championships over 5000m, the 26-year-old Australian retained his World Cup title in the 3000m in September with an upset victory over Bekele in Athens. He also lowered his personal best in the 1500m to 3:33.97. This will be Mottram's first appearance at the Millrose Games.
Lagat holds the Millrose mile record, 3:52.87, set in 2005 while Kenyan Laban Rotich claimed the Boston meet record in the event, 3:53.18, the same year.
Top-10 indoor performers, All-time:
3:48.45 - Hicham El Guerrouj, MAR, 1997
3:49.78 - Eamonn Coghlan, IRL, 1983
3:49.89 - Bernard Lagat, USA, 2005
3:50.70 - Noureddine Morceli, ALG, 1993
3:50.94 - Marcus O'Sullivan, IRL, 1988
3:51.20 - Ray Flynn, IRL, 1983
3:51.8 - Steve Scott, USA, 1981
3:52.02 - Peter Elliott, GBR, 1990
3:52.18 - Rui Silva, POR, 2001
3:52.30 - Frank O'Mara, IRL, 1986