The Greatest Showman: Josh Kerr Backs His Big Talk

By Kyle Merber

February 14, 2024

There isn’t a huge incentive to talk much in track and field, and that’s why we don’t get a lot of it. There is no revenue share, and there aren’t contract bonuses for being well-liked. Even having the biggest Instagram following is not a significant value add when it comes to negotiating appearance fees, which is good, right? That’s what we want? This thing is a meritocracy! Running fast is still the most important factor.

So since Josh Kerr announced his plans to break the 2-mile world record at the Millrose Games back in November, my main question was… why? There is already an incredible amount of pressure entering the Olympic year as the reigning world champion. Once you’ve won, if you do it again it’s no longer an upset – it’s the expectation. Why go through the trouble of painting an even bigger, more obvious target on the back of your singlet?

And that’s where my doubt or concern came from regarding this weekend’s record attempt and Kerr’s season at large. This is a new position for him on the world stage, and any pressure he feels aside, the dude seems quite busy. As Jake Wightman can attest, the media attention can be a noisy distraction.

The question then is how does Kerr handle it all? To help, he has hired 4-5 employees to help manage all aspects of his business and life. As much as I want to make fun of a professional runner needing that big of a team, I am insanely jealous and it makes me think he’ll be okay. Imagine how good this newsletter would be if I didn’t have to go grocery shopping each week!

As Kerr, Jakob Ingebrigtsen, and Wightman have spoken openly about their feelings about one another in the media during the off-season, the biggest beneficiary has been the fans. If you weren’t already invested, you should be now: Jakob claims he’d win 98 out of 100 times against the two Scots… who, if you’re keeping score at home, have won twice between them. 

All this while Jakob has bypassed the indoor season with a sore achilles. Most of us curl up in a little ball and cry ourselves to sleep at night when dealing with an injury, behavior which sits on the opposite end of the confidence spectrum from popping off to any Norwegian journalist willing to sit for an interview while you aqua jog. And that’s why Jakob is special — he not only forces his opponents to raise their game on the track, but to elevate their shit talking off of it.

Josh KerrJosh Kerr

Johnny Zhang / @jzsnapz

But back to that track thing. Mo Farah’s previous 2-mile world record of 8:03.40 was a fast time. To put into perspective, it takes running a 7:30 3000m, then continuing on at that pace for another 218 meters. When Kerr won the Millrose 3000m last year, he did so in a time of 7:33.47. Has he become THAT much stronger? Or is he just that good at running downhill on the banks of The Armory track?

Given that Kerr was the one guaranteeing fans a world record performance, you might assume that he would have taken it upon himself to keep the pace honest. Instead, Grant Fisher – who must not listen to the Citius Mag podcast because Kerr was pretty clear about going for it! – was the first one on the rabbits. (Special rabbit shoutouts to Hazem Miawad, who got things started, and AJ Ernst, who towed the field through 2000m in 5:04. Ernst is making a name for himself in the rabbiting world, but also ran a 3:52 mile of his own last week – not bad for an unsponsored athlete working a full-time consulting job, who graduated with a 3:39 1500m PB a couple years back.)

Grant FisherGrant Fisher

Johnny Zhang / @jzsnapz

In Fisher’s first race since leaving Bowerman, he kept this thing honest and seemed to have Kerr on the ropes there with a few laps to run. Where else besides the Millrose Games do you get a clash between the best American-based middle-distance and distance runner? Fisher tried his best to run the kick out of Kerr, but couldn’t quite break him. Ultimately, when the 1500 guy could sniff the finish line and the record, he closed his last 400m in 56.9 to run 8:00.67.

Most of our familiarity with the quality of a 2-mile time stems back to high school. All I know is that in my personal experience, if you couldn’t break nine minutes back in 2008, then Stanford doesn’t respond to your emails. But what’s 8:00 worth? Well, according to the World Athletics scoring table, Kerr’s time is faster than Lamecha Girma’s 3000m world record of 7:23.81. The thing it’s not faster than is Jakob Ingebrigtsen’s 7:54.10.

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Kyle Merber

After hanging up his spikes – but never his running shoes – Kyle pivoted to the media side of things, where he shares his enthusiasm, insights, and experiences with subscribers of The Lap Count newsletter, as well as viewers of CITIUS MAG live shows.