As far as I know, the Boston University Track and Tennis Center on Ashford Street in Boston doesn’t yet have a nickname worthy of its stature in the Track world. Athletes, coaches, and spectators simply refer to it as “BU,” as in the sentence, “Reggie Lewis and Harvard are OK tracks, but if you really want to run fast, go to BU.” Well, I think it’s high time to address this deficiency, and I am prepared to start referring to the TTC as “The BU Autobahn,” because that’s where everyone goes when they want to go really fast.
I was there on Sunday, February to watch Patrick take one last shot at a PR in the mile, and to watch Tyler try to run a fast 5K in his first indoor race in five years. I don’t really remember what else I was expecting from what was billed as a “Last Chance” meet (because Sunday was the last day for collegiate athletes to achieve qualifying times for the 2018 NCAA Indoor Championships. I knew from scanning the entries that there would be a few pro runners in the building, but that’s not too surprising for a meet in Boston, so I didn’t really think about it.
The first inkling I had that this meet might exceed my expectations came before I entered the building. I got a text from Tyler, who was following the live results online, alerting me that a fellow New England runner, Louis Serafini, had run 3:59.33 for the mile, finishing 4th. Wow, I thought, that’s pretty fast, and only 4th! So I opened the results myself to see who had finished ahead of him, and realized with a start that Serafini’s sub-four had come in the second heat of the mile, where five runners had gone sub-four. The first heat, won by Izaic Yorks in 3:53.40 was much faster and deeper, with nine men sub-four. When the dust had cleared, 14 runners had broken the magic barrier, but not, unfortunately, high schooler Brodey Hasty, whose 4:04.98 was only good enough for 20th.
But wait, there’s more! In fifth place, Tatezawa, Ryoji ran 3:57.43 to set a new Japanese National Record. Right behind him, Sampson Laari ran 3:57.65 to break his own Ghanaian National Record by one-tenth of a second In 9th, Jeremy Hernandez of Ramapo became the first DIII runner to go sub-four indoors, running 3:59.01. In all, 37 runners went sub-4:10, and 63 went sub-4:20. It wasn’t until Heat 7 that I got to see Patrick run a great race to set a two-second PR and go under 4:40 for the first time, running 4:38.59.
I had missed almost all of this by arriving late. I would find out the next day that I had missed other great races held earlier in the day. In the 800, another high schooler, Josh Hoey, had destroyed Robby Andrews’ high school indoor record of 1:49.21, running 1:47.67 to take second behind Christian Harrision of the BAA (1:46.83). I did, however, get to see some blazing fast 200s, an exciting race in the men’s 3K, and Emily Sisson running a mostly-solo world indoor leader of 15:13.76 in the women’s 5000m, all before watching Tyler run a huge PR of 14:23.16.
And that, I figured, would be that, except it turned out there were some relay events at the end of the meet.
Perhaps it’s a sign of just how spoiled we are when we hang out at BU, but we start taking for granted that running celebrities hang out there, too, warming up or cooling down like normal human beings. So I didn’t pay too much attention when, as I was chatting with some friends on the infield after the 5000, one of them called my attention to one Matt Centrowitz, 2016 Olympic Gold Medalist in the 1500, doing easy laps around the outside of the track. Sure. Why not? I thought.
It turned out that Centro was there to run on a 4×800 Relay Team, facing a team from the Atlanta Track Club and a quartet of runners representing Hoka NY/NJ Track Club. As they lined up for the start of what would be the final event of the meet, the building was almost empty. And quite a few of the perhaps three dozen people still hanging around were pre-occupied with cooling down or getting ready to leave. I know I was, and I missed the start of the race, and was only partly paying attention as the PA announcer began talking about the world record.
On the second leg, Kyle Merber (who owns a share of both the DMR and 4×1 Mile world records), took the baton for Hoka. I kind of expected he would break the race wide open, especially after splitting a 25 on the first lap, but the other two teams kept it close. All three teams were still in it after the third lap, as well, setting up a chance for Centro to vanquish less decorated runners on the anchor leg for the DC team.
Oddly, he chose to run the first lap in 27, which seemed awfully slow (that’s how the BU Autobahn affects your perspective). Jesse Garn, Hoka’s anchor, didn’t hesitate but went by Centro. At this point, I leaned over to Tyler, who was taking a video of the race and whispered confidently that Centrowitz the tactical genius, was setting up Garn, and we would see a fearsome kick any moment now. But the kick never came, or rather, it came from Garn, who powered away to cross the line in 7:11.30, a new world record by almost two seconds. On the final bend, Atlanta’s Brandon Lasater passed the surprisingly mortal Centro for 2nd in 7:11.84. A few strides later the gold medalist crossed the line in 7:12.25, ensuring that all three teams would beat the previous world’s best.
And with that, there were no more last chances left, and the few remaining spectators dispersed out into the raw, wet Boston evening. I had parked a mile away, and as I was jogging back to my car, thought about what a strange afternoon it had been.
Such fast running taking place in such a matter-of-fact venue. In a few days, I would be back at BU for my weekly workout with my running club. I would do a few strides on those same aggressively banked turns; join my friends for a few tame reps of 400s, 800s, or 1000s; plod where others had so recently blazed. If running fast is contagious, perhaps a little bit of that crazy stupid fast would infect me.