Milestone 4×800 world record at Armory: Four under 2 minutes

Four buff M40s runners averaged under 2 minutes each to claim a world record in the 4×800 Friday night at the Armory Track in Manhattan. A slickly produced video shows pieces of the relay and an interview with the men: Scott Weeks, Erik Nedeau, Chris Simpson and Mark Gomes, who was hawking his new book “Faster Than Forty.” Armory interviewer Mike Rice asked a few questions, and the time given was 7:58.12, which crushes the listed indoor WR of 8:07.48 by Landis, McGinty, Forde and Berra in 2009. (Details on that WR.) The listed outdoor 4×8 WR is 7:54.17. Haven’t seen results posted yet, however. And ratification is always iffy for pickup teams. But congrats!

A year ago, Mark told of another 4×8 WR attempt:

Race Recap: Another WR Close Call

In what was a somewhat spur-of-the-moment quest, I again donned the Eliot TC singlet with a couple of mates to take a stab at the Masters indoor 4 x 800-meter relay world record — a record held by the Greater Philadelphia Track Club (set by a team that was anchored by my greatly esteemed nemesis, Nick Berra).

The record, 8:07.48, may sound easy — until you realize how hard it is to find four 40+ guys, in relative geographic proximity, who can still muster up something close to 2:00 half-mile legs. Then of course they all have to be healthy on the same day. Trust me, it’s harder than it seems. The Eliot team and I tried this before, last year to be precise, and failed on two occasions.

The meet was the Roxbury Community College All-Comers — essentially a Northeastern University tune-up meet, and indeed NU fielded a squad to pace us through the 4 x 800 because there were no other entries. Competing against my alma mater’s current squad (although to be fair, this was not NU’s ‘A’ squad) provided some incentive to run hard; add to that fact my old NU teammates Jayme Fishman and the legendary Erik Nedeau joined Eliot TC’s Chris Simpson to round out our team, and I was pretty excited to race.

We had two distinct challenges coming into the meet:

1) My training has been minimal (to say the least) since contracting sciatica at the 2011 Outdoor Masters National Track & Field Championship, over 5 months ago. I ran 2:05.9 for 800 meters on Christmas Eve off almost no training at all since Nationals, but I’d need to be much quicker than that to give the team a shot. I embarked on a hasty tune-up program for this race starting the week after Christmas — and everything I researched for the Faster Than Forty book said that a 2:03 would be doable, but it was no guarantee. (And a 2:03 would still put a lot of pressure on my teammates.)

2) We learned just the day before the race that Erik Nedeau would be running on a stress fracture in his foot. The instant his relay leg ended, his 2012 indoor season would be over.

At the meet, everything went as smoothly as we could hope. It was a bit behind schedule, but nothing crazy. We were the last event on the docket. After a version of my Faster Than Forty warmup (more about that in the book), I joined my teammates on the infield just before the race went off.

Sticking to the plan, Chris Simpson led off against NU’s first leg — a 1:56 800-meter guy. The NU team established a quick pace, but Simpson ran to his own beat and rattled off series of 29-31 second 200-meter splits. It was a solid leg. As expected, NU held a comfortable lead as Jayme Fishman took the baton. The Huskies’ second runner was no slower than Fish, so he was stuck running all four laps alone before yielding the baton to me.

I couldn’t sense the pace, but the rush of air around me gave a hint. As I crossed 200 meters, I’m sure someone yelled out a split, but I was deaf to it. All I heard was something like driving through a tunnel alone at night. Radio off. No cops in sight. I have run the 800 meters countless times before. I could do it on feel alone, aided by the slow-rising burn of lactic acid and swelling gasps for air. Through the 400-meter mark, the crowd noise gave no quarter. I heard no split. At the end of the third lap, I looked up and saw I had gained good ground on my young opponent from the NU team. I caught him on the back straightaway of the final lap and gave the stick to Erik Nedeau with our first lead of the night. Brian Moore read my split: “two flat.”

The decades had taken no toll on Ned’s gait. He appeared as powerful as when he won a bronze at the 1995 World Championships. But I could see the anguish in his face. The pain of the fracture was inescapable. He pushed valiantly to the finish line, comfortably fending off NU’s anchor leg. But as he crossed, the clock read 8:08. We were a little over one second short.

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January 26, 2013

5 Responses

  1. - January 26, 2013

    Congrats guys, great effort !

  2. peter taylor - January 26, 2013

    Great job by these four men. I interviewed Scott Weeks last Saturday at the Hartshorne Mile, where he won with complete authority, and I am so glad he was able to be part of a world record. At Hartshorne, Scott estimated his initial half as 2:06 to 2:07, a range that boded well for this record performance at the Armory.

    It’s hard to put odds on ratification, but I would bet that the foursome will get this mark accepted (FAT, the Armory has been the site of other masters records, and these are known runners). Let me see how many masters records have been set there …. Well, it looks like there have been quite a few. I say “yes” for ratification.

  3. chuckxc - January 26, 2013

    Great job guys, congratulations !

  4. al cestero - January 27, 2013

    nice going…!!!

  5. Arthur Nelson aka Ace Bond - January 28, 2013

    Great work! Awesome to see 4 M40 all under 2:00 min. Gives the rest of us hope.

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