A small field of elite milers - just five - lined up in near perfect conditions to contest the fourth annual B.A.A. Men’s Elite Mile. Defending champion, Andy Baddeley from Great Britain, was not among them; but, even so - with such weather and such a tightly knit field - sparks were certain to fly.
There was no distinct pre-race favorite, although Australia’s Collis Birmingham was the fastest man in the field on paper, with a 3:53.9 road PB on his resume. Already selected for his country’s Olympic team over 5000m, he has based himself in Philadelphia for his pre-Games preparation and viewed this race as speed-work that would serve him well as the Games drew nearer. “Something a little quicker would be good for me,” he explained.
“Quicker” was the optimal word. Birmingham surged to the lead from the gun and, literally, never looked back. “It’s a compact course,” he stated of the three laps and 12 turns that the field had to negotiate. “It’s important to be in a good position at every turn. And there’s no better position than being out in front. That was my plan, right from the start.”
It was a good plan. A first lap of 1:25 saw Birmingham holding the pole position, though with Boston College alum and assistant coach, Tim Ritchie, just inches behind, and a further three meters to the remaining three. With two laps completed, the clock read 2:47, with the tall Australian owning just a little more daylight on Ritchie. Ben Bruce, Kyle Miller and Ireland’s Aidan Walsh filed through next, in that order.
The last lap told all the tales. Birmingham unleashed all of his Olympian’s track speed, opening a full five seconds and showing precisely why he is on his way to London in July. At the finish line, he stopped the clock at 4:06.0, with Miller surging through for second in 4:11.4 and Bruce edging the fading Ritchie, 4:11.7 to 4:13.5. Walsh closed out the field at 4:23.2.
Asked why he would base himself in the US for his pre-Games training, as opposed to Europe, Birmingham explained, “I’ve had some good races in the USA. The USA has been good to me.”
- By Jim O'Brien