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September 9, 2019 Comments (0) Healthy Running

Boulder’s Simpson Storms NYC’s 5th Avenue Mile!

Boulder’s Jenny Simpson and Sam Parsons once again made their marks against some of the world’s fastest mile runners on Sept. 9 at the New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile in New York City as a tune-up for the IAAF World Championships in Doha, Qatar later this month.

Simpson and New Zealand’s Nick Wills extended their dominance with hard-fought wins in the 39th annual race down the famed Manhattan roadway. For Simpson, it was a record-extending eighth overall (and seventh consecutive) title in the event, while Willis broke the record for most men’s victories with his fifth win.

Under sunny skies with warm temperatures, the women’s field set off at an aggressive tempo. Simpson, who lives and trains in Boulder, Colo., was among the early leaders on the opening downhill quarter mile, with New Balance teammate Elinor Purrier and Jessica Judd of Great Britain beside her. After an uphill second quarter mile, Simpson had a slight lead and continued to press the pace. Purrier, Judd and American Nikki Hiltz were on her heels at the front of a tightly bunched pack.

As the course began to descend, the Boston-based Purrier pushed to the lead and ran side-by-side with Simpson. Finally, with about 300 meters to go, the second-year professional out of the University of New Hampshire opened up a slight gap. But Simpson never ceded more than a few inches and her familiarity with the uneven terrain of Fifth Avenue was the deciding factor as she edged ahead to hit the tape in 4:16.1. That cut half a second off the event record she set in 2017 and shared with PattiSue Plumer.

“To set a course record is such a huge point of pride for me,” Simpson told Race Results Weekly. “To think that at this point in my career I’m still running personal bests, I am really proud of that.”

Purrier was just one-tenth of a second behind, while Rebecca Mehra (4:22.0) of Bend, Ore., was well back in third and Hiltz (4:25.4) and Judd (4:26.2) rounded out the top five. In addition to taking home US $5,000 for the victory, Simpson also earned a $1,000 bonus for leading the field at the halfway point.

Simpson scored her first Fifth Avenue Mile title back in 2011 and has now won seven years a row since 2013. She credits that experience for helping her navigate the bumpy final stretch.

“The road is really rough and so learning how to stay on your feet is a big part of this race,” she said. “But that will to win is the biggest thing in the last 150 meters. You have to look up at that finish and say that no matter what it takes I have to get there first.”

The 2016 Olympic bronze medalist in the 1500 meters, Simpson will soon head to Doha, Qatar, to compete in the IAAF World Championships, which begin later this month. She previously won a world title in 2011 and picked up silver in 2013 and 2017. Her husband, Jason Simpson, a 2:18 marathoner who has qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials Marathon in Atlanta next February, ran 4:15.9 in his heat of the race.

Purrier, the 2018 NCAA Indoor champion in the indoor mile, is joining Simpson on Team USA in Doha, though she will be racing the 5000 meters. She admitted that Simpson’s reputation in this event was on her mind.

“It’s a little intimidating, I’m not gonna lie,” she said. “But I try not to let that get in my head and just give myself a chance and put myself there.”

Astonishingly, the men’s race was even closer. After Parsons, who trains with Boulder’s Tinman Elite training group, bolted to the lead on the climb to the half-mile mark (smiling as he passed that stage, knowing he was en route to collecting the $1,000 halfway bonus for the second year in a row), the field patiently reeled him in. With a quarter mile to go, a massive pack prepared for a closing sprint.

Just under 300 meters from the tape, Chris O’Hare of Great Britain bolted ahead and quickly opened up a 10-meter gap. But Willis closed hard and won by inches, with both athletes clocking 3:51.7.

Prakel was just a tenth of a second behind in third, while Australian Morgan McDonald (3:52.8) and American Andy Bayer (3:53.2) finished fourth and fifth. Boulder runners Tripp Hurt (3:53.6) and Riley Masters (3:54.7) finished eighth and ninth, one place ahead of Parsons (3:55.0) in 10th. Parsons will race in the 5,000m run in the world championships for Germany.

“Sam ran well. Probably could have run a full second faster but he went after the prize money for being first at the half-way mark,” said Tinman Elite Coach Tom Schwartz. “He ran a 2+ second personal best time. That’s a good boost for his confidence going in to the IAAF World Championships.”

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