“I started pushing at 100 meters to go,” said Lagat, standing with Centrowitz and Manzano afterward. “I knew these two gentlemen were going to be in pursuit, but I wanted to give my best and run hard. At 50 meters to go, that great miler there”—he nodded to Centrowitz—“just passed me.”
Centrowitz’s father Matt attended Manhattan’s Power Memorial High School and made two Olympic teams at 1500 meters; Matthew just took fourth place at the same distance in the London Games. Like many of the Fifth Avenue pros in this Olympic year, he was relieved at the end of a long season. “That’s it,” he said, smiling. “Junk food, video games, and late nights—it starts now.”
In the women’s race, tension built through the first half as the entire pack field of 13 runners remained in contention. Defending champion Jenny Simpson and her 2012 USA Olympic teammate Shannon Rowbury, the 2009 and 2010 champion here, were well-placed with a quarter-mile left, as were British Olympians Hannah England and Julia Bleasdale. But with 200 meters remaining, Brenda Martinez showed them all why she’d been undefeated in her last three road miles: She shot into the lead and built it to five yards to win in 4:24.2. 2008 USA Olympian and 800-meter specialist Anna Pierce came up fast to take second (4:24.9), with England third (4:26.0).
“I felt confident,” said Martinez. “I’ve learned to be patient—I just got in a rhythm, and with 200 meters to go, I kicked for my life and ran like a maniac.”
“This was good,” said Pierce, who’s made a resurgence at the end of a frustrating year. “I’ve been running 800s,” she said, explaining her fast finish. “I got my first big 800-meter win here, at Icahn Stadium.”
England, who finished fifth, fourth, and third in the previous three Fifth Avenue Mile, said, “I was watching Anna and thinking, ‘I’m meant to be there!’ But maybe I can skip second place next time.”
The NYRR Road Mile Championships divisions were won by Kate Grace, 23, of Clinton, NJ, and Kumsa Adugna Megersa, 26, of the Bronx, NY. NYRR team-points open-division championships were swept by Central Park Track Club New Balance.
After the pros had gotten their breath back, they waited for the event’s final finishers: the 14-and-under kids’ division. As the kids crossed the line, they were greeted by cheers and high-fives from some of the fastest runners on earth—who treated them like stars.