The American won the race down one of New York’s most famous streets in 2011 and 2013.
NEW YORK — Two-time NYRR Fifth Avenue Mile champion Jenny Simpson describes the 20-block race as an optical illusion, a rewarding race down one of New York’s most famed streets. Having claimed the top spot in both 2011 and 2013, Simpson, 28, enters Saturday’s contest with excitement and anticipation, hoping to become the first three-time women’s winner in race history.
“A win here would be a perfect icing on the cake. My season has gone so well, I feel great, and it is important for me to come here and do really well because it’s a perfect way to cap off the season,” Simpson told Race Results Weekly, a glowing smile never leaving her face.
This summer, Simpson has set personal bests at 1500m (3:57.22) and 3000m (8:29.58), won the national title at 1500m and most recently claimed the IAAF Diamond League series title for the discipline, solidifying her spot as the top 1500m runner in the world. Simpson returns to New York with one goal in mind: taking the $5,000 first-place prize back home to Boulder, Colo.
Simpson will toe the line alongside 2012 winner Brenda Martinez, IAAF World Junior 3000m champion Mary Cain and 15 other women, 10 of whom have dipped under 4:30 for the mile. When asked if she thinks her experience on the straight-shot course will come in handy, Simpson answers honestly.
“I kind of don’t think it is an advantage. I think having done it, I think you can kind of over-think it a little bit,” she said, speaking like a true veteran. “I think one of the reasons I ran so well in 2011 is because I had no idea what I was doing and just ran as hard as I could, parsed out my energy and did the best I could and sprinted at the end.”
Considering the race is one of her favorites in America, Simpson knows the course’s profile like the back of her hand. Well aware of the slight uphill that crests close to 800 meters in, Simpson won’t let her eyes deceive her.
“I was trying to describe the Fifth Avenue Mile [to a friend], that the optical illusion of it all is what’s the most challenging part of it,” she said. “Not only is the finish line straight in front of you, you can see it for like 800 meters, and that’s a little bit weird.”
With her track season complete, Simpson leaves the friendly confines of the oval behind. When it comes to the Fifth Avenue Mile—run on a five-lane wide stretch from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to Grand Army Plaza—Simpson says the width of the road comes into play.
“It’s really disconcerting having such a wide road to run down because there is something comforting about running on the track,” Simpson said. “You’re in this lane, you’re turning, you can kind of feel where everyone is in the first half of the race. Fifth Avenue is just really different because of the space of it, the space and distance about being able to see the finish line … You don’t have the same kind of indicators by the turns, so you have to know that in your brain and trust that [instinct].”
In 2013, Simpson took command of the race early, charging out in front nearly the entire way. Her winning time was 4:19.3, the fifth fastest time in race history. PattiSue Plumer holds the event record of 4:16.68, set in 1990.
Tomorrow, Simpson will have added motivation: a number of friends and family have come here to watch her race for the final time this season.
“The Fifth Avenue Mile for me is really an opportunity for me to kind of celebrate with people who have made this season possible for me that aren’t able to be in Europe and be at my races there,” she said. “It’ll be a fun way to thank so many people.”
If she does break the tape first, Simpson will extend America’s winning streak in the women’s race to six years.
“I think that is really special,” said Simpson. “I think that is so parallel also to how great American women’s middle distance running has been over the last five, six, seven years. Let’s not buck that trend yet!”