Every Monday, I’ll lead off the week with a throwback race video. I’ll do my best to tie it into a result from the past weekend, or use a race from yesteryear to preview something to come in the week ahead.
With the Millrose Games this Saturday, it’s only fitting to have a Wanamaker Mile race as this week’s video.
We take you back to 2008.
With the Beijing Olympics looming later that summer, the star of the show was none other than Bernard Lagat.
Lagat was fresh off his double world title performance the previous summer, and perfectly comfortable in the confines of the Millrose Games. His small frame and quick acceleration were ideally suited for the tight turns and short straightways of the iconic 180-yard Madison Square Garden track. By the time the Millrose Games moved out of MSG, Lagat racked up a record eight Wanamaker Mile titles, one more than the legendary Eamonn Coghlan.
Lagat’s main opponent in the race? The Big Mazungo himself, Craig Mottram.
Mottram was at the peak of his popularity in 2008, seen by many as the chief threat to East African dominance in the distance events. Although his career largely faded from that point (Mottram made an unsuccessful comeback in the marathon last year), he provided fans with a ton of thrilling moments that made him an icon for a generation.
The one who ended up having the best 2008 turned out to be the guy in third place, Nick Willis.
Later that summer, Willis won a bronze medal in the Beijing 1500 meter final, and ultimately had that elevated to silver after Rashid Ramzi was busted for doping.
And who’s the guy in last place in the all-yellow Livestrong (yes, Livestrong) kit? Yep, it’s Galen Rupp.
Rupp was redshirting from Oregon that track season and focusing on shorter distance races. I remember watching him get smoked in a bunch of miles and 800’s and thinking, “What the hell is this guy doing?” It turned out Alberto Salazar knew exactly what he was doing as Rupp improved his closing speed significantly, helping him make his first Olympic team in the 10,000 meters later that summer.
We’ll have more from that meet and g2g4gold as the week goes on.