The Internet Home of Track & Field

New Heights for Alan Webb!

It was a Magic Moment on DyeStat in 2001 when Webb ran the first prep sub-4; now with his 3:46.91 US Record, he's reached a new pinnacle of American miling

Walt Murphy's Story - Rich Gonzalez Story at DyeStatCal.com - Magic Moments Story on Webb's first sub-4 in 2001
- Flotrack video of race - Flotrack interview video -

Alan Webb Breaks Scott's American Record

By Walt Murphy
Courtesty of Walt Murphy's News and Results Service, (c)Copyright 2007-all rights reserved. May not be reprinted or retransmitted without permission.
Subscribe to Walt Murphy's News and Results Service by contacting him at
[email protected]

(Thanks to flotrack.com for providing a video record of the race).

Alan Webb ran the mile in 3:46.91 in Brasschaat, Belgium, on Saturday to break Steve Scott’s 25-year old American record of 3:47.69

Alan Webb after his 3:30.55 in Paris - ImageOfSport.com 
Frustrated by European meet promoters who didn’t want to put on a mile, Ray Flynn, Webb’s manager, took matters into his own hands and worked with the local organizers of the “Atletiek Vlaanderen” meet to put on this special race. He and coach Scott Raczko knew the time was right for Webb to take a shot at the record. The setting was a 6 lane track, surrounded by trees, in the community park in Brasschaat, a suburb of Antwerp in the Flemish region of Belgium. It was Independence Day in Belgium and less than a thousand spectators were on hand.

Webb and the other Americans competing in the meet didn’t have to travel far, since most of them are based in nearby Leuven while they prepare for other European meets.

The weather was ideal (warm, calm) as the 9-man field took off at the gun, with Webb settling into 3rd behind the two rabbits, Australian Youcef Abdi and Kenyan Samson Surum. Abdi did his job well, going through the first ¼-mile in a shade under 56-seconds, with Surum, Webb (56.2), and Australian Mark Fountain following closely. (All splits are approximate)

There was some concern on the 2nd lap when Surum failed to maintain contact with Abdi. Webb was briefly tempted to move past Surum, but decided to stay where he was. Said Webb in a post-race, trans-Atlantic, conference call(tinyurl.com/2bba7h), “We slowed down the second lap. The second pace-setter kind of fell off a little bit. I was a little worried he wasn't going to be able to go the whole way. I think he might have been hurting a little bit and wanted to be sure he could get through in a decent time”.

Abdi reached the ½-way mark in about 1:53.0 before dropping out, with Webb a few meters behind in 1:53.7 (Scott’s split was 1:53.8 in his record race). Fountain was still right behind Webb. A re-energized Surum picked up the pace on the 3rd lap, moving wide down the stretch as Webb passed the ¾-mile split in 2:50.6. It was slower than the sub-2:50 he was looking for, but still more than a second ahead of Scott’s pace (2:51.9).

With one lap to go, Webb was confident he could get the record. “I knew I had a little bit left going with a lap to go. I felt I had a really good chance”. Showing no signs of slowing down after the quick pace, Webb powered down the homestretch and crossed the line well under Scott’s record. The infield clock originally flashed 3:46.93, but the time was later corrected to 3:46.91. Webb is now the 8th fastest miler in history.(See below)

As Webb made his way around the track for the final time, he was cheered on by the 30 or so athletes who had made the trip with him from Leuven. Said Webb, “That was the coolest part, because the biggest crowd was the Americans who drove up with me. It was athletes cheering on athletes. It was so awesome to have those guys there and it really inspired me to be able to do something like that at an intimate situation where those other athletes got to see it first-hand, right there. They were steps away from me. With 300 to go, all the Americans were stationed right there, so it was so cool”.

When Webb realized he had gotten the record, he hugged both rabbits, then went down the backstretch high-fiving the other athletes.

Steve Scott was gracious when informed that his reign as the American Record holder had come to an end. He told USATF, "I want to personally congratulate Alan. I anticipated it [the record] being broken. After his 1:45 [800m] and his 3:30 [1500m], you knew he was capable of it. It was just a matter of having the right pace and conditions. Even if conditions weren't perfect, he's so strong, I knew he could do it. I had a prediction of 3:46.5 for him. "I'm happy that it was Alan who broke it, and I believe at the end of the day, when all is said and done, that people will consider him the greatest distance runner America has ever had. He has such range, he's so young and he's accomplished so much. I have nothing to be ashamed of, losing the record to him."

Alan Webb winning the USATF 1500 -
Kirby Lee -  ImageOfSport.com

Ed Bosch, an American “ex-pat” who lives in nearby Antwerp and works for Johnson&Johnson, was at the meet. “The crowd was supportive, but there weren't many of us. Who would ever think such an American record would fall at such a small meet in Belgium?”

When asked to put Webb’s performance in perspective, Flynn said, “It means he's run faster than Sebastian Coe, faster than Steve Ovett, faster than Steve Scott. What else can you say? Alan's only 24 years old. There's a lot left in his career.”

Mile Results: 1.Alan Webb 3:46.91, 2.Max Smith (new Zealand) 3:56.46, 3.Gareth Hyett (New Zealand) 3:57.46, 4.Seth Summerside (USA) 3:57.84, 5.Tasama Dame (Ethiopia) 3:58.74, 6.Steve Sherer (USA) 4:07.31; DNF-Mark Fountain (Australia), Youcef Abdi (Australia), Samson Surum (Kenya).

Full results of the meet: tinyurl.com/2wpt2x

Some quotes from the flotrack video:

Deena Kastor: “That was awesome. It was well worth the car rental and the scary drive over here to witness it. It was a great day for American distance running and we’re all very proud to be a part of it.

Webb: “I’m on top of the world, baby!”…”I think I can go faster…”

Coach Scott Raczko: “It’s pretty exciting. (Alan’s) worked very hard to get to this point”.
Mark Floreani(flotrack): “He’s chasing the ghost of Steve Scott!” (my favorite)

Some photos: mb.trackandfieldnews.com/discussion/viewtopic.php?t=26814&start=0 (Scroll down)

New goals for Webb include a gold medal in the 1500-meters at the World Championships in Osaka and the World Record in the mile. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was 14”.

As late as the day before the meet, I had contemplated going even deeper into debt than I already am by using one of those internet last-minute travel deals to make my way over to Belgium. I had been there when Webb ran his first sub-4 mile at NY’s Armory during the winter of 2001(see below), and again at the Prefontaine Classic later that year when he ran 3:53.43 to break Jim Ryun’s revered high school record. The temptation to be present at another potentially memorable moment was overcome by the economic reality of the situation.

But, thanks to modern technology, I almost felt like I was there. Within minutes after the finish of the race, Flynn and Raczko each sent a text message giving the final time and Webb’s splits. And a few hours later, I was one of a handful of reporters in the U.S. who spoke to Webb in a teleconference call that was quickly arranged by USATF’s Jill Geer. Also participating in the call were USATF CEO Craig Masback and Flynn, both of whom ran in Steve Scott’s American Record race. (Flynn set the still-standing Irish National Record of 3:49.77, while Masback finished 5th in 3:56.59). And then, of course, there is the flotrack video, which allows everyone to share in the experience of Webb’s big moment.

As part of his “Magical Moments” series commemorating 10 years of dyestat.com, John Dye remembers Webb’s first sub-4 mile in 2001. http://www.dyestat.com//?pg=usMagicMomentsAlan-Webb-Sub400

3:43.13 Hicham El Guerrouj Morocco 1999
3:43.40 Noah Ngeny Kenya Rome 1999
3:44.39 Noureddine Morceli Algeria 1993
3:46.32 Steve Cram Great Britain 1985
3:46.38 Daniel Komen Kenya 1997
3:46.70 Venuste Niyongabo Burundi 1997
3:46.76 Said Aouita Morocco 1987
3:46.91 Alan Webb 2007
3:47.28 Bernard Lagat Kenya 2001
3:47.33 Sebastian Coe Great Britain 1981
3:47.65 Laban Rotich Kenya 1997
3:47.69 Steve Scott U.S. 1982

(Courtesy of the U.S. National Record Progression List—by Dave Carey-Scott Davis-Don Potts
4:00.5 Wes Santee Austin,TX April 2, 1955
3:58.7 Don Bowden Stockton,CA June 1, 1957
3:58.6 Dyrol Burleson Eugene,OR April 23, 1960
3:58.0 Jim Beatty Modesto,CA May 28, 1960
3:57.6 Dyrol Burleson Eugene,OR May 24, 1961
3:56.5 Jim Beatty London, England August 18, 1962
3:56.3 Jim Beatty Helsinki,Finland August 21, 1962
3:55.5 Jim Beatty Compton,CA June 7, 1963
3:55.4 Jim Grelle Vancouver,BC June 18, 1965
3:55.3 Jim Ryun San Diego,CA June 27, 1965
3:53.7 Jim Ryun Los Angeles,CA June 4, 1966
3:51.3 Jim Ryun Berkeley,CA July 17, 1966
3:51.1 Jim Ryun Bakersfield,CA June 23, 1967
3:49.68 Steve Scott Oslo,Norway July 11, 1981
3:48.53 Steve Scott Oslo,Norway June 26, 1982
3:47.69 Steve Scott Oslo,Norway July 7, 1982
3:46.91 Alan Webb Brasschaat,Belgium July 21, 2007

Magic Moments Index