It’s President’s Day in San Diego, Calif.
Down on the infield of Triton Track & Field Stadium, someone is blowing up a 15-foot tall inflatable sign that reads “UCSD.” Traffic on the adjacent 405 is moving roughly 30 miles per hour faster than it would at 10 a.m. on any other day. Around the empty campus, a handful of some of American distance running’s best and brightest are getting in a quick warm-up jog.
Roughly 30 men and women gathered in early February to take a crack at the IAAF World Championships 10,000 meter standards. Or to put it another way, they’re looking to run very fast when most people have yet to wrap up their indoor season. The set up is as professional as it gets: Lynx Timing System, a man on the PA with impeccably researched notes, and a phalanx of rabbits set to accompany both races.
At 10 a.m., the 100 or so fans milling about make their way to the homestretch to get a close up of the action.
The starter calls the women to the line and 10 seconds later fires the gun. Three rabbits jump to the front as a rough and tumble crew of 10 women, including Kellyn Taylor, Steph Bruce, Alexi Pappas and Alice Wright tuck in behind them.
32 minutes and 15 seconds later, Taylor and Bruce cross the line within 1.5 seconds of each other – the rest of the field clearly in their rearview.
No more than five minutes after the women wrap up, it’s the men’s turn. Headlining the field is Noah Droddy, Jerrell Mock and Reed Fischer. The goal is an ambitious 27:50 with the rabbit set to take them through in 14:00. Ben Bruce takes them through on pace before Droddy and Mock decide to trade the lead every two laps.
On the final homestretch, Droddy pulls away and crosses the line in 28:32. It’s well off the initial goal, but not bad for mid-February.
If we’re being honest, no one has any business running that fast at this time of year, anyway. But the weather was nice, the athletes were down and there were a handful of maniacs willing to organize and spectate the damn thing, so why not?