He has done it again!

David Yon, March 20, 2023

Have you ever run a 5000 meter (3.11 miles) race in 14:11.92?  For at least 99.5% of us the answer is no. It requires a pace of approximately 4:34 per mile.

Well, Patrick Koon just did it. On March 14, he ran an indoor 5000 meter race at The Track at New Balance Nationals in Boston in exactly 14:11.92 in what one of the announcers, somewhat euphorically, called the greatest high school race ever.  Koon’s incredible time was 2nd fastest junior in the nation this year, the 4th fastest all time indoors for a junior and the 7th  fastest  indoor time any high school junior has ever run. Patrick finished 4th in the New Balance competition with senior Tyrone Gorze powering away from everyone to win the 5,000 in 13:56.18.  Daniel Simmons, also a junior also finished under 14:00 minutes with a time of 13:59, Lex Young was the 3rd finisher, he crossed the finish line at 14:00.64.96.

Shortly before the Boston performance, Koon ran 3200 meters in a time of 8:53.83 at the Bolles Bulldog Classic. That is the second time he has broken 9 minutes for that distance. There is an excellent interview with Brandon Miles of MilesplitFL. https://fl.milesplit.com/articles/329762/patrick-koon-on-his-853-3200-at-bolles-indoor-debut)  Throw in a new Personal Best at 1600 meters (just short of a mile) of 4:16.38 and you have someone very special continuing to improve each year.   The 2023 outdoor season has just begun.

Distance runners, like most other athletes, have good days and bad days.  But Tallahassee has a great opportunity coming up to see Patrick run at the FSU Relays on Friday, March 24 in the Invitational 3200 at Mike Long track.  This race has become one of the top 3200 (just under 2 miles) events in the state.

Watching a series of indoor meets and a few outdoor ones (on the computer), it appears to be the golden age of distance running. The records getting smashed at all levels are crazy.  At least it seems as if, every time I watch or read about a competition, someone is knocking off a record of some sorts, be it world, collegiate, national or facility record, athletes are flying. In their pursuit of records, they just keep getting better.  The ability to watch and find information about  competitions is amazing.

The pace of improvement for all these race can make a fan scratch their head sometimes.

The impossible was once the ability to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. Once upon a time a man named Roger Banister believed he could do the impossible.  On May 6, 1954, he ran a mile in 3:59.4 to become the first person to run a mile in under 4 minutes. It was thought by many athletes, coaches and trainers that the body simply could not maintain the pace needed to break the barrier and all who had tried before him had failed.  Once Banister came along and disproved that it could be  done, it cracked the dam. The flow of sub-4 minute runners started as a drip, became a stream, a creek, and now is a river.  Track and Field News maintains a chronological list of US runners who have broken the mark.

For a long time, Jim Ryan was the only US high school runner who could get under the barrier. He ran his first sub-4 mile in May of 1964. For the next 51 years, only four additional high schoolers accomplished the feat, adding their names to the prestigious shortlist. In a story published in Runners World, it is stated that since 2015—whether because of better coaches, improved shoe technology, or the rise of online training resources—the list has tripled. Roughly one-quarter of the list cracked the 4:00 minute barrier since the beginning of 2022. Again, something that seemed impossible became most doable once runners changed their way of thinking. There are now at least 17 runners who have broken the 4:00 barrier while in high school.

They are expensive, but it seems certain that the super shoes are effective for faster times and the new and refurbished indoor tracks offer significant advantages to distance runners. Look for a future column to explore the world of super shoes.

I have been a fan of track and field competition for many years.  It is a statistic and data driven sport.  Records are  prized as a way to measure and recognize the best performances.  It seems right now that the world of track and field is on fire as every time there is a meet there is a new record set.

But records must always be judged in the context of the conditions surrounding the competition, assuring there was no illegal or unfair advantage.  And in general, we expect records to be rare. Today, however, it seems records are falling like rainfall.  It is exciting and fun to watch; but, at some point it could become too routine and no longer appreciated.  For now, it is great.  I don’t think anyone wants to go back to the cinder tracks where Roger Bannister defied the  Bannister cracked barriers.

LetsRun’s Jonathan Gault wrote the following on March 3, 2023 as part of his analysis of the issue:

It feels as if every week in 2023, some sort of distance running record is getting smashed. Through the first two months of the year, we’ve seen five collegiate records (women’s mile, 3,000 & DMR, men’s 3,000 & DMR), four American records (men’s mile, 3,000, & 5,000, women’s 3,000), and even a world record (men’s 3,000).

Though perhaps you’re used to it by now. Last year featured American indoor records in the men’s and women’s 5,000 meters and a collegiate record in the men’s 3,000. Since January 1, 2020, every major US indoor distance record (men’s and women’s 800, mile, 3,000, 5,000) has been broken at least once.

So keep an eye on Patrick and many other talented Tallahassee runners and see how many more records get set…right before our eyes. The year is just beginning!



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