Fifth Avenue Mile: The Media Experience

Not only did I have an exceptionally good race experience at the Fifth Avenue Mile this year, but I also had a great experience as a media person.

Interviewing the runners

Once again I’m reminded that, while the lack of interest in professional track and field in this country can be dismaying at times, the flip side of that dispassion is that the stars of the sport are very accessible. In my case, I can walk off the street and find them in a room, ready to answer questions. Bonus: coffee and free danishes.

Like last year,  managed to carve out a few hours to research and then speak to a few of the elites in this year’s race. After a few experiences with the NYRR press events I’ve honed my approach. First, I have to wait to see who will be made available. Usually that’s anounced about two days before the press event. Then I have to select from that list to research. I can’t interview 10 people in a couple of hours; it’s better to pick three or four and focus on them with just a handful of questions to start with. As the interview progresses, you modify questions — or just go with the conversation’s new turns. But what sometimes happens is your planned interview doesn’t turn up, but you’ll get other people you didn’t expect. That’s when my set of generic, “ask anyone” questions come in handy.

So, with my method down pat, I made a beeline for three of the runners in whom I was most interested: Shannon Rowbury, Sally Kipyego and Jenny Simpson. I will be transcribing and editing those interviews and posting them soon — probably about a week from now. They were all great interviews, as expected.

Riding on the media truck

Last year, after volunteering for this event at the start line, I hobbled down to the finish and watched the rest of the races from there, including the elite races. I couldn’t help but look with envy upon the people who got to watch those races from the best seat in the house: the back of the media truck. I vowed to be on that truck when I came back this year. It took quite a lot of persistence, but I secured a seat about 15 minutes before the women’s elite race.

The truck has two rows of seats, plus room on the tailgate if you’re brave. That’s where Mary Wittenberg and a few other NYRR staff sat last year, as they did this year. The rest of us piled up higher. You’re strapped in with a rope and off you go. I was in the top row, viewing the races with a vista that included the back of Larry Rawson’s and Jim Gerweck’s heads. I’ve included video, which is interesting to listen to because you can hear the chitchat among the reporters, which is very much focused on the quarter mile splits.

You’ll also see that the vantage point changes from “runners at 12 o’clock” to “runners at “10 o’clock” as the truck whips off to the side to allow room for the pace car and runners. After the women’s race it whirls around and whips back up Fifth Avenue for the men’s elite race.

I think my favorite part of this experience was the first trip up Fifth, when I could see my friends along the course, as well as a few women I’d raced with who were surprised to see me later on, tearing past them on that truck. One of my friends, Amy Cooper, snapped this photo. I’m in the pink. This is probably one of the happiest photos ever taken of me. Saturday was a dream day in terms of racing, friendship and the thrill of riding in that ridiculous truck.

One Response

  1. You had a great view from up there. The splits show how slow that second 400 is — Simpson looked like she was easing up at the finish. Amazing too how close they all are — nothing much in both races. Anyway, with that experience you might get a gig on the truck at the Olympic Trials.

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