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King of the Road: New Balance 5th Avenue Mile Preview

Most of the top American distance runners and some others will take to the streets of New York City on Saturday.

Olympics: Track and Field-Evening Session Eric Seals-USA TODAY Sports

Last week, the 5th Avenue Mile announced their men’s and women’s fields for tomorrow’s race. If you’re not familiar with the entries, I have reposted them below for your convenience:

These fields are stacked on the American side with notable omissions including, and limited to, Evan Jager, Bernard Lagat, Galen Rupp, and Paul Chelimo on the men’s side and Shannon Rowbury and Molly Huddle on the women’s side. That’s it. Everyone else that matters is here.

Viewing Information

USATF.TV will be broadcasting the event live for free. Coverage begins at 12:30pm on Saturday, September 3rd with the following schedule of races:

12:45pm—NYRR Women’s Championship

1:00pm—NYRR Men’s Championship

1:15pm—Elite Women

1:30pm—Elite Men

Men’s Preview

As with any mile run among (almost) exclusively Americans, this is Matt Centrowitz’s race to lose. If it weren’t for Leo Manzano, he would enter with, by far, the fastest PR over 1500m in the field, and Manzano just isn’t on the same level as Centro any more to pose a serious challenge.

Behind Centro will be an interesting race for the next bunch of spots with Manzano, Ben Blankenship, Robby Andrews, Clayton Murphy, and maybe Colby Alexander all in solid contention for second. Blankenship’s grinding-it-out style seems more suitable to the roads than the kicks of Manzano, Andrews and Murphy, so I’d prohibitively consider him the favorite for second in this one.

After that, it’s tempting to call the race a battle between Manzano and Andrews, but it might be wise to remember that, just a few months ago, Clayton Murphy was the NCAA Champion at 1500m. He’s certainly specialized for the 800m over the past two months, but he’s not the sort of 800m runner who will be in over his head in a mile. Even so, Manzano has the benefit of not being churned through the Olympics ringer of qualifying rounds that his competitors have, so we’ll take him for third ahead of his more recently-accomplished foes.

Prediction: Centrowitz, Blankenship, Manzano

Women’s Preview

Shannon Rowbury, coming off a Diamond League win in Zurich, will not be running in New York, but everyone else of note will be there. Muir, Simpson, Grace, and Coburn also ran in Zurich and will have to battle both jet lag and each other to compete here. So, while Muir and Simpson are the favorites—and both seem to be still near peak fitness—there could be an opening for someone like Amanda Eccleston or road specialist Heather Kampf to jump in for the win.

For Kampf, who has dominated the niche event of road miles for the last couple years, this will be a test of how much of her success is attributable to a unique ability to run well on the roads and how much is just a product of a lack of elite competition. She looked a bit overmatched on the track at the Olympic Trials, but now she’ll be able to welcome the likes of Simpson and Eccleston to her home.

More than the men’s field, the women’s field offers more in the line of “what could this non-1500m runner do in a mile?” sort of intrigue. Shelby Houlihan had a fantastic season at the 5000m distance, culminating in an appearance it in the Olympic Finals. However, her background is more in the middle distances, having run the 800m and 1500m in college at Arizona State. She’s obviously in the best shape of her life, so it will be interesting how that 5000m fitness converts back down to an event she’s certainly comfortable in.

Emily Infeld, who won a world medal in the 10,000m in Beijing last summer, and Emma Coburn, who is the greatest American women’s steeplechaser of all-time, will both be coming down for the mile and it’ll be interesting to see how they acquit themselves to the distance.

Prediction: Muir, Kampf, Simpson