Making the Most of Your Mile: Inaugural The Navy Mile
The Mile is brought back in America’s Capital; $14,000-plus prize purse; race to start and finish at the Navy Memorial on historic Pennsylvania Avenue on Sunday, October 4
By Bring Back the Mile
When we first heard that a road Mile was being resurrected in Washington, DC, we were thrilled to have America’s distance back in America’s Capital. The inaugural The Navy Mile on Sunday, October 4 takes over where the Pennsylvania Avenue Mile left off in 2004. In 2002, John Itati (KEN) set the event record with a 3:58.7 win, while in 2003 Courtney Babcock (CAN) lowered the women’s mark to 4:32.1. Perhaps even more famously, LetsRun.com’s Robert and Weldon Johnson’s mother at the age of 56 made her racing debut running a 13 minute Mile that was “held back back by the most famous dog in the world, Sugar, who at the ripe old age of 84, can barely run anymore.”
BBTM had the opportunity to speak to the 2015 Race Director, Lyman Jordan, about the Navy Mile’s origins, what it takes to put on a Mile in the nation’s capital and whether or not First Lady Michelle Obama will make an appearance. Lyman is the owner of Race Resources LLC, a full service operation handling foot races, whether road, track, trail or triathlons, from concept to sponsorship development, permitting, USATF certification, timing, scoring and race day logistics.
Held on Sunday, October 4 on Pennsylvania Avenue near the Navy Memorial, the Navy Mile boasts a $14,600 prize purse, Under Armour tech t-shirts for every participant and opportunity to run on of America’s most iconic streets. The organizing committee has been keeping an eye on Hurricane Joaquin developing in the Atlantic. Stay tuned to the event’s website and social media for race day information. On-site registration will be available up until 45 minutes prior to a participant’s particular heat.
BBTM: Why did you decide to start The Navy Mile?
Lyman: Well, I didn’t start it! It was started by a gentleman by the name of Charlie Hautau who is the executive director of the National Capital Council of the United States Navy League. Charlie is a Navy Academy graduate who was a Miler there.
How did you get involved?
Interestingly, while Bring Back the Mile had been raising awareness of the Mile, I was simultaneously contacted by the Navy League to handle the establishment of this event as well as Scott Raczko who is the principal at Commonwealth Race Management, which is associated with the Potomac River Running store. Scott was also Alan Webb’s first coach who coached him to great success early in his career; he is still a coach today in addition to his business.
Both of them asked about putting on a Mile in DC and can you handle this? The three of us met and due to the great growth of Commonwealth Race Management they didn’t have the bandwidth to put it on themselves, so I went forward with the Navy League. The Potomac River Running store is still involved as a sponsor of the event.
It was coincidental that both parties reached out to me almost within a day or two of each other without knowing each other. Evidently there was something bubbling up in the background about bringing back the Mile! I was only too pleased to work with the Navy League; wonderful organization and it’s been a great experience.
There have been a lot of new Miles that have popped up around the country since BBTM’s launch in 2012, but outside of the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile in Pittsburgh, PA, most are in smaller communities. The organizers of the Navy Mile have launched a Mile in not only a major metropolitan area, but one of the most secure places in the country. What did it take to start this event and what special challenges are there to hosting an event in Washington, DC?
Well to be honest, I’m not sure if we have enough time in this interview to go over all the challenges in any detail (laughs). That’s a great question and as you can imagine there are multiple authorities to deal with. It’s a very a long process.
I’m approached sometimes by entities outside the region who would love to have that money shot of their race banner with the U.S. Capitol in the background. One of my first questions is ‘when are you thinking of putting it on?’ The answer is almost always within a year. I have to tell them that it’s not feasible. You’re going to need 18 months or more in Washington, DC to really get your event permitted and as of today I’m still dealing with some of the logistics in terms of water barriers, barricades, cones and that type of thing. It’s all coming together for us, but it’s an extremely long process that takes a huge amount of time.
The permitting process took longer than even we had anticipated due to the number of events that are now being allowed in the city. You essentially have to enter a queue before even speaking to authorities, which took many months before we could make our first presentation to see whether they would even humor us. Luckily they did, but also wanted us to make some changes to our plan. We had turn around, make the changes and get back in the queue again.
You’ve managed to make this happen on Pennsylvania Avenue. How special is it going to be for runners to run a Mile right there in the heart of our nation’s capital?
I think it has a huge potential. This event has a history. A similar event, the Pennsylvania Avenue Mile, ran for nine years ending in 2004. It ended when the charitable beneficiary absconded with all the revenue and was never seen or heard from again. That put the kabosh on it, but it was a very popular event in its day.
Since that time, with the restrictions now placed on this piece of real estate, we weren’t able to use the exact same course. Although, even if we could, we wanted to finish at the Navy Memorial, which we do now. It’s a wonderful backdrop with the U.S. Capitol. It’s a flat and fast course. It’s impossible to have a point-to-point course in downtown D.C, so it is out-and-back, but we have a big wide turn. The turn won’t be too demanding on runners; it may slow down some runners, but I don’t think it will cost more than a fraction of a second for the elites.
The inaugural The Navy Mile has an incredible group sponsors and partners, especially from the Navy and greater military community. How are they being involved on race day?
We have an incredible amount of support from all the organizations. The Sea Cadets will be volunteering out there; people from the Navy Memorial and the Navy League will also be out there. All the organizations are really helping out.
We have a good number of them also racing in a team competition, especially amongst the Sea Cadets. For a first year event we’re pleased with the turnout, especially since we’re up against other races in the region on the same day. We knew we were up against a lot and our goal in year one was really to plant our flag and develop good sponsorship relationships. The Navy League has done a magnificent job; my hat is off to them. If we held the event today it would be a total success in what we’re able to give back to the charities. We’re really thrilled with that.
For a first year event it is great to see a $14,000-plus prize purse as well. A $2500 first place prize puts you in elite company in the U.S. How are the fields shaping up?
In year one, quite intentionally, our plan is to allow anyone to sign up that day, including the elites. We’re expecting 15 men and 15 women in the elite races. There are no finishing time requirements to claim the prize purse, but we did have qualifying times of 4:30 and 5:30 to get into the elite field. We have some hotshots who have run sub-4 looking to race, but we’ll see how things come together on Sunday, especially given some of the weather that may come in this weekend to our region. George Banker, who is the Operations Director of the Army 10-Miler and fixture in our running scene is handling the fields.
Moving beyond the race itself, what can participants expect from the event on Sunday?
We have the Navy Band Cruisers who play contemporary, rock and country music. We also have the Navy Ceremonial Guard who will open and close the event. For the kids we have the kids’ and family heat going off at 10 o’clock with Teddy, the Washington Nationals mascot, coming out to entertain them. We have a great announcer, and while we’re not going whole hog with the bells and whistles this year, it is going to be a really fun event.
What are the goals of The Navy Mile looking into the future?
We’ve discussed this quite a bit and having helped put on races in our region over the last 30 years I know that it’s important to keep expectations in line for year number one, especially when you have a new course to a city. It’s a slow process and it’s about planting your flag. We have plans to do this race indefinitely. When we come back for year number two we will have so much work behind us. It won’t be a total rubber stamp, but a lot of the logistics such as the permitting work will be easier. Our city is one of the most secure in the world and we’re between the U.S. Capitol and the White House. There are many, many jurisdictions, law enforcement entities and the list goes on and on of the people you have to work with. Once the city sees an event go off beautifully and safely, which is our priority, we hope to be invited back.
There are many lessons you just gave for races in any size city such as setting expectations.
Yes and I’d like to add that while I have a lot of experience doing this, no matter how much you have at a first year event there are unknowns. I’m onsite to handle all of that and I have great people that I get to work with, but this is like a dress rehearsal for the future. We’ll have a lot of lessons learned and will build institutional memory for this event that will become invaluable for the future.
Any politicians jumping in the Mile on Sunday?
I’m not allowed to say (laughs). So far, I’m actually not quite sure. We do know there is a top Admiral coming to kick the event off.
Maybe next year you’ll get First Lady Michelle Obama and the Let’s Move team out there.
That would be awesome. The more kids we get out there, the happier we’ll be. The authorities are saying they don’t want the event to be more than 3,000, but we’ll see how it goes in the future. We know there are events run in the area that are much bigger and our goal is to take the event to be as big or bigger than the 5th Avenue Mile.
We love that this event has been resurrected in the nation’s capital and we wish the entire organizing committee, sponsors and partners a good event on Sunday. The Navy League and the National Capital Council are an amazing group of people and have volunteered a great gobs of their time. I also want to thank Bring Back the Mile; apparently what you started is starting to bear fruit and have an effect here, at least with this event.
Good luck Lyman and Go Mile!