Webb eager to open Visa Championship Series
On Monday, January 22, two-time USA outdoor 1,500m champion Alan Webb spoke to the New York Track Writers. Webb will be a headliner of the first two meets of USATF's Visa Championship Series, competing in the mile at the Reebok Boston Indoor Games on January 27 before taking on Bernard Lagat, Craig Mottram and others in the Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games on February 2.
Last Saturday, January 20, Webb ran an indoor personal-best time of 3:56.70 at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory, running the race six years to the day that he became the first American high schooler to break 4:00 for the mile indoors.
Below are excerpts from Monday's conversation with the New York Track Writers.
Q: What are your plans this year, beyond Boston and Millrose?
A: I've tentatively thought about the Tyson meet, the last Visa Championship Series regular meet. We'll see how things go the next few weeks and make a decision about Tyson and U.S. indoors [the AT&T USA Indoor Championships] after next weekend.
Q: Are you happy with your condition?
A: I am very happy with my condition. I struggled a little bit this summer. I was in very, very good shape in the late spring and early summer, but I tweaked my hamstring and got a little bit sick, a little bit tired, and things didn't really work out in the summer. But that training did not go away and I am reaping the benefits of the training I've done the last few years.
Q: Talk about your first race at Millrose, in 2005.
A: I enjoyed being in the Garden and running in front of the crowd. I didn't enjoy almost getting lapped by Bernard [Lagat, who set a meet and Garden record of 3:52.87 in the race]. That wasn't very fun. He's going to be back this year and he really knows how to run fast on that track, which is easier said than done. I think that experience there will help me the next few meets. It's a shorter track, and you don't run on a 160-yard track very often. At the same time, I'm going to be ready. It will be a star-studded field.
[On running on the Garden track]: I really think that I see it as the cross country of the mile because you can never really relax in a fast race. It's almost kind of a strength thing. You can't finesse your way through. That's a cross-country mentality - it's all about the effort. You have to make it simple and just run hard.
Q: How have you overcome some of the disappointments you've had in your career the last six years?
A: I feel like a lot of times in training, you have to walk that line between doing too much and doing too little. You really have to toe it as close as you can. Sometimes you do too much. Last year was a pretty good example of that. The hardest part [of his career] was when I first left the University of Michigan and moved back to Reston [Virginia], that was really important for my career. No matter what is happening, no matter how good or bad you're doing, you have to keep doing it, keep trying to walk on that line. Eventually you'll run fast. For example, last summer I didn't do so well, but this year I knew I was going to come back. I've learned how to get myself out of the downs.
The last couple of years I've been focusing on trying to be a miler but coming at it by doing the longer stuff so the mile felt shorter. Running the 10,000 in Stanford was a turning point and was the end of that process of trying to get really, really strong. Then we were going to turn back to the mile and some shorter stuff. My goal is to run the World Championship 1500 and the Olympic 1500. To do it with any success, you have to know how to run fast. As good as it is to run 27:30 10k, it doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be a great 1,500-meter runner.
Q: How does running Millrose help you?
A: What makes Millrose great isn't the track, it's running in Madison Square Garden and running in front of a crowd of 10,000 or 15,000 people and running against the best guys in the world. Lagat and Mottram will be there. Just being in a race with those guys, that could be the Olympic 1,500m final. It's that kind of level. Plus it's a pretty special year. It's the 100th running of the Millrose Games, so I couldn't pass that up. I wanted to be part of the history of that. Just the prestige of running this event, so at the 200th running, when they look back, whether I win or not I will be on the list of participants.
Q: Is Chris Lukezic good training partner?
A: Chris and I do very well together. We help push each other in workouts and as friends supporting each other. At the same time, we are different runners. We have different styles and therefore we have different needs. There are other things besides getting on the track and hammering 400s at each other. We don't do every single workout together. Going into this weekend, for instance, we were doing different things. But even when we are doing a different workout, it's nice to go to the track and know there is somebody out there suffering with you.
Q: Is the American record in the mile a goal of yours?
A: Of course it is. The world record is one of my targets. I've run my personal best 3:48-something. Just like my senior year in high school, when people were wanting to know if I wanted to break 4 minutes, I said of course I am! I would like to break Bernard's 1,500-meter record, too, and to get the world record. It is a goal of mine, and I'm not the only one trying to get that record, either. The American record is more realistic, obviously. It should be an exciting year, with the World Championships as well. Worlds is my main focus but I'm definitely going to be running the big American meets and the big European meets.
Q: Talk about the role of coaching in your success.
A: I think one of the reasons I've been able to crawl out from the downs is I've had very consistent coaching with Scott Rackzo. Other than my time at Michigan, he's been my coach my whole career. Having the continuity really helps. The more times I go down, the more times he learns how much I can take, and that's important. Bernard [Lagat] is a great example of how coaching has really influenced his career, especially the longevity of his career. We all know the African runners are really strong, but at the same time when you look at the history of distance running, a lot of Africans have a hard time staying at that level for a long time. But Bernard has had the same coach since Washington State.
Q: Do you have any time goals this indoor season?
A: Even this weekend at Boston, I'd like to get another PR. I ran 3:56 this past weekend and I think that with the competition in Boston, I'll probably have to run at least that or faster to win the race. Millrose, the track and pace can play into the time. If I could get a PR every race, that would be awesome.
[On potentially slower times at Millrose]: A time is not what makes a race great. It's the competition, having all the great runners and the crowd into it. If you say it's 3 seconds slower, the crowd helps you get that back.
Q: Is Millrose an event you'd run every year?
A: Even in high school, it was kind of always on the schedule, but for whatever reason it just never fit until this year and two years ago. I felt and my coach felt that Millrose, it doesn't get any bigger than that indoors. I felt that I had to go. I feel like I am ready to go and compete well. We've already talked about how good the competition will be. I wouldn't go in if I didn't think that I could compete. I'd love to have this become a tradition for me. I hope it works out every year, but spectators respect the fact that they will only want to see me if I'm running well. They don't want to see me get ninth or something. Every year, indoor comes around and Ray [Flynn, former world-class Miler and Wanamaker contestant] says, you want to do Millrose? He had a lot of success here as an athlete and had a lot of fun. Ray has been a lot of help to me. He's helped me get through some of the hard times as well. He always knew even at my darkest hour that there was still something in there and that I really loved competing and eventually I would come around. Before races, he'll tell me what to be ready for. For him to have gone through things in his career, it's been fun to have him by my side.