Many of the top names in professional track and field have arrived in New York City, in anticipation of finishing their season at the Fifth Avenue Mile Presented by Nissan on Sunday. The annual event, first run in 1981, takes runners of all abilities down Fifth Avenue from the Metropolitan Museum of Art at 80th Street to Grand Army Plaza at 60th Street.
After a series of age-group races open to all runners, the pros will line up for a final match-up of the 2013 outdoor season. For the American runners in the field, this race has meant an annual homecoming of sorts, after a summer spent racing throughout Europe.
The women’s professional race will begin at 12:45 p.m., with a mix of past champions and newcomers looking for a win on Fifth Avenue.
Jenny Simpson, the 2011 winner, looks to finish a season that saw her take silver in the 2013 IAAF World Championships 1500 meters. Commenting on her race Sunday, she remarked, “It’s a combination of a competitive race and a celebration of the end of the season.” She also mentioned that tactics here play less of a role than in a track mile: “That’s the beauty of this event—you just race.”
Two-time champion Shannon Rowbury, who ran the event’s third-fastest time in 2008 before back-to-back wins, is entered in the race for the sixth time. After placing seventh in the 5000 meters at this summer’s World Championships in Moscow, Rowbury expressed her excitement about being back stateside, saying, “To run on U.S. soil in America’s city, New York, is always fun.”
The men’s race will begin 15 minutes after the women, at 1:00 p.m., and is sure to provide another exciting finish down the stretch.
For Lopez Lomong, the race is even more of a homecoming. The South Sudan-born American record-holder in the 5000 meters indoors plans to head upstate after the race to his hometown of Tully, NY, to spend time with his family.
After a silver-medal performance in the 800 meters in Moscow, Nick Symmonds will move up to more than twice that distance for Sunday. “It’s just a matter of staying relaxed for 1609 meters instead of 800 meters,” he commented. Symmonds’ appearance in New York has drawn attention from non-running media as well, as he will be featured on CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360.
Bernard Lagat, the 2011 champion running in his sixth Fifth Avenue Mile, summed up his great love of racing in New York City: “You feel appreciated here, and to an athlete, that is what we train for all year.”
After completing their respective races, the pros will line the finish for the children’s race (ages 8-14), closing out the day’s celebration and a season’s worth of hard efforts.
“Our races are to our sport what Wimbledon and the Australian, U.S., and French Opens are to tennis, and what the Masters, U.S., and British Opens and PGA Championship are to golf. Each race has the history, the tradition, the honor roll of legendary champions, and a special place in the eyes of all to make them stand apart from the other events.” Mary Wittenberg