An Alaskan Mile

An Alaskan Mile


(wind whistling) (slow suspenseful music) (upbeat music) – Everyone runs the mile,
whether it be growing up in PE class or running track in high school, and it’s a barrier, you know? – That’s a pretty big task to
break four up here, I think. Weather is always such a
big factor this far north. – Yeah, there’s some states
where weather’s perfect and it’s easy to break four
just about anywhere anytime, but up here you got a
three-month weather window in the summer, and even during the
summer it rains a lot, it’s windy a lot, it’s hard
to find good conditions. You need a good group of
fast guys to really try to get after it and go for it,
and lay it all on the line. (upbeat playful music) – This is a chance to
bring a really complete field of quality milers. We have an Olympian Ben Blankenship. – There’s another shot in
Kodiak, but I hopefully will get it done today, and
there’s a couple other guys all trying to break four. Garrett Heath, he’s probably
the (laughs), he’s the oldest guy out of all of us. – Yeah, I am one of the
older ones here, I guess. I feel like that’s kind of
been my role for too long now. I’ve felt like I was the old guy in the sport five years ago. Hold onto the dream as long as possible. This is just a fun experience, you know? Try to come up to a state where four has never been broken outdoors. Ben’s probably one of
the big guys to beat, and then I just raced Kyle Merber. – To me this event is
basically about bringing track and field back home
for Trevor since he was shoveling the track and running
two mile time trials here, and he’s gone on to do
some pretty cool things, and he hasn’t really had an opportunity to race on home soil in a long time. In terms of competition
and guys that I know best, it would be my teammate Colby Alexander. – Yep, going for a nice shake out. I like to get like five
hours out from warm up. Maybe this will come back to
bite me, but I’m gonna go an extra five minutes and go 15 minutes. I like Cleveland sports, I like ice cream, and I like to stay hydrated,
and I guess I run too. That’s everything you need
to know about me, I guess. – On paper I have probably
the fifth or sixth fastest PR in the field, but that’s
how I like it, you know? Go in as the underdog. I’d rather finish 100th place
and set a PR rather than win and run really slow. It’s not as fulfilling. – The main goal is always
to win, but up here I think just as equally the main
goal is to break four. If there’s anywhere in the
country that can appreciate it, it’s here. (wind howling) – So I think there was a
little bit of doubt of whether or not people would even care. (playful suspenseful music) – In Alaska, no one’s ever
broken four outdoors before. Everyone knows what a home
run is, everyone knows what a slam dunk is, people
know what a sub-four mile is. But they’ve never seen one. – I think these races are almost more stressful than a US Championship. You’ve already set up people
saying we’re gonna break four. – I think it’s just like a pretty cool special
thing that could happen. – When we showed up at the
high school an hour before the race, and we’re gonna go
warm up, there was virtually no one there in the stands at the moment. – There’s literally no one there. (laughs) There’s five people in the
stands, and we’re like, it’s the first year, you know. – It was kind of like it was
a bad high school dual meet, and the winds were
howling off the mountains, and I was like, what are we doing here? Thank God no one’s here to
witness what we’re about to put out, because I don’t
think anyone’s getting under four in this. – There’s no way we break 4:05. It’s not happening. It’s way too windy. – We acknowledge that there
was a elephant in the room, a windy elephant. But once the gun went off,
we’re just back to racing. We’ve done it a thousand times. – Warming up, going through
strides, drills, and getting the spikes on, and you look
over and there’s 700 people in the stands, and there’s
another 100 walking in from the parking lot a minute
before the race starts. (upbeat music) – And people were
pouring into the stadium. – Next thing you know
those stands are filled, and there’s like 1,000 people there. (cheers) – The atmosphere just
built really quickly. – [Announcer] As the four-minute
mile barrier, which is a time steeped in tradition,
without a doubt the finest field of runners ever
assembled on Alaskan soil. (upbeat rock music) – It was just a series of
feeling amazing with the wind at your back and then absolutely
grinding into the wind on the home straightaway. There’s a reason why people
don’t necessarily break four minutes at the mile
in Alaska all the time. – Sure you can break
four, but it still hurts to break four, and especially
in bad conditions it’s gonna hurt a bit more, so you
need to be willing to hurt. 550 to go, Trevor I think
could kind of feel it lagging a little bit as well, and
even though it was coming into the home stretch, which is
really where the wind was whipping, just really went for it. – I got a little impatient,
and I ended up just blasting into the lead with 300 to go. – Coming home that last
100 meters could be some of the most brutal
15 seconds of your life. – [Announcer] We got ’em
winded up pretty good here on this last lap. – Like around 70 to go, I
kind of feel Ben coming. – [Announcer] That’s Ben
Blankenship now moving through the pen. – Those two pulled up next to each other, and were just staring each other down, and while they were focused on each other, I was able to swing out into lane two. (cheers) – [Announcer] The history
of Alaska sub-four minutes. We just saw it right here. – Like these sort of
races that track and field is supposed to be, and this
is what keeps you going. – I’d rather have 1,000 fans
that are so fully invested in the race that they’re
on their feet just absolutely yelling for four minutes, vs. having 10,000 people who don’t care. – The Alaskan crowd there
is a hell of a crowd, hell of an event, hell of a race, so looking forward to doing it again. (quiet orchestral music) – Today, yeah, it seems
like it started so long ago. We went fishing. (upbeat rock music) And then hit the trail
in the four-wheelers, and just mud bogged like
I’ve never mud bogged before. (upbeat rock music) – [Man] We did it! – I was in the Honda 500. I was the pilot for that. – [Man] Colby says we’re done. We’ll wait here. – It seems like I got stuck. Got stuck twice on the way out. – I think Colby is flooding
the engine, I’m not sure. It looks not good, though. – But it wasn’t a big deal. I was just learning how to do it. (engine revving) (peaceful nature and guitar music) – I’ll tell you this much,
there won’t be any sticks left in this river when I’m done. – I think I got a big fish. I don’t know, it might be a log. – Any fish, I don’t even care if it’s big. I’ll take a minnow. – But I see a fish, I just wanna cast it at that fish, right? – All right, I’m gonna throw
it way out there this time. Oh shit! – [Man] Eat it, wake up. Eat it. – I’d say fishing is extremely boring until it’s extremely exciting. (upbeat rock music) (splashing) Being the most skilled
fisherman here, I apparently just stabbed this thing in the back. It’s like, “Et tu, Kyle?” (splashing) (yells) (cheers) I love you, Garrett’s fish. I always wanted to be fileted with you! – USADA’s gonna test that day? – [Garrett] I hope not. I should have told USADA
I was gonna be out here. Did you update your whereabouts? – [Kyle] I dare you to come test us. (laughs) Good luck, I have no idea where we are. (soaring orchestral music) – 10-minute drive, you are
outside of civilization here in Kodiak. – Feels like The Revenant
meets Jurassic Park out in the middle of nowhere,
just no humans anywhere. Looking for bears, trying
to find just wildlife. – You see pictures and they look amazing, but today as I was trying
to snap pictures of it, nothing could do it
justice until you’re there and you get your full
360 view spinning around in unbelievable untouched
mountains in every direction. (soaring orchestral music) (airplane engine roars) (upbeat music) – When I was in high
school, would probably be the last time I actually
raced on this track, so it’s been a long time. It’s hard to get anywhere. To travel’s super expensive,
so we came up with a time trial on the track, and
as fate would have it it just turned into terrible
conditions out there. – So I remember watching
the Trevor-shoveled track two mile time trial and
just being blown away. – [Man] Okay, runners take your mark. Go! Go, go, go! (cheers)
– He did it just in the most blue collar way possible with a few people there cheering him on. That’s kind of the
legend of Trevor Dunbar, and where it started. – I think relative to a
lot of parts in Alaska, it was mild winter so I
was trying to look at it from that perspective, that
I’d always have even in the darkest time of winter, an
hour after school that would be light so I could just get out of school and get my run in right away. Kept me real honest because I knew I couldn’t mess around at all. – [Man] (cheers) 9:01! – It’s a fishing town. It’s a Coast Guard town, but
we also are super isolated, so having sports is an
outlet when you’re young, keeps you away from drugs and
keeps you focused on a good, productive, healthy path, and
I think without sports there wouldn’t have been much
direction to my life. (contemplative guitar music) – Trevor embodies this idea of bringing great distance
running back to Alaska. Trevor runs into so many
people that seem so supportive of his dreams, and I think
a lot of people, especially in a tight-knit community
where he grew up, and his dad’s this living legend, to bring
that spirit and his abilities back home and do something
no Alaskan has done before, break four on Alaskan
soil would be pretty cool. – It’s hard to be around
here and be a little bit of a whiner about the conditions
not being perfect on the track when these people are coming
in from days, weeks being out in the ocean and freezing,
and just sucking it up, and loving it, so you
just gotta embrace it. You better go for it, ’cause if not nobody’s gonna respect you for it. – Running is not a perfect
science, that there’s gonna be a million reasons that you
shouldn’t run fast, and that’s not necessarily a good enough
reason to not run fast. (laughs) – Tough weather to deal with,
but we think it makes us tougher and it’s just a love for sports that brings us all together. – Even if it’s bad weather, these guys might do amazing things. I’m excited for what’s gonna happen. Great things have happened
on this track before, and I think we’re gonna see a
big day out of that tomorrow. (upbeat music) (airplane engine roars) – [Announcer] Okay, ladies and gentlemen. We are now ready for the show
we’ve all been waiting for. – [Kyle] My expectations going into the Kodiak race were definitely high. – [Garrett] Then it started raining, wind picked up a little bit, and so it got cold really quickly. – I didn’t think the weather
would affect ’em that bad ’cause they’re trained athletes, and Kodiak, we’re used to
running in the weather. And I’ve seen a lot of good performances in that kind of weather. (suspenseful music) – In that situation, the guys
that I would have expected to win if it wasn’t me, were
Garrett or Ben ’cause they’re from Minnesota, they have beards. – [Garrett] By the time we
did intros and toed the line, I was frozen. – I still thought somebody
was gonna break four. I wasn’t so sure they were
gonna get the soil record, 3:58.3. – Somebody would have to
put their neck on the line, or be like the lamb to
the slaughter to get us to 1,200 meters, and I knew
nobody really wanted to do it. – [Announcer] Runners, to your mark! (suspenseful music) (upbeat drums music) (cheers) – [Announcer] 58, 59,
60 for the first lap. (upbeat drums music) (cheers) – Right around a K, I
actually kind of felt the pace starting to
lag and so, I was like, if we’re anywhere close, we need to go. – There was definitely a
point in there when I was just trying to get everything
out of myself that I could, ’cause I wanted to make sure
that I was doing my best. – [Announcer] It’s Garrett
Heath now, our leader. (cheers) – [Announcer] Blankenship, Dunbar. Three minutes!
(peaceful orchestral music) – As a frustrated four-minute
miler myself, when I came through in three minutes,
that was trouble. I never got that magical 58
second last lap that I needed. I knew it was gonna have to be
the fastest lap of the race. – When I went around
Trevor at 500 meters to go, but I was hoping Trevor
would still be there, but he did quite a bit of work
and put his neck on the line. (cheers) (suspenseful orchestral music) – Right when I crossed
the finish line, there was probably like instant disappointment. – It’s heartbreaking to
see your kid not happy. I could tell he wasn’t
happy after the race. And I just wanted to tell
him, it’s okay, you know. We love you no matter how you ran. That’s not important,
the important is that you gave it your all, that you
put this great event together, and the fans here still love you too. (cheers and applause) – Got over it really quick
when I had that hometown crowd and I kind of put a smile
on my face really fast, and it was hard to dwell
on just a bad performance when really it meant so much more. – Everywhere we’ve been,
people have been so excited about it, that just doesn’t necessarily happen in all communities. – Yeah, I’m glad someone
from the race broke four, and got that record. I didn’t, no I ran four flat again. – After Anchorage, I was
thinking about what my 3:59 was worth, you know, effort-wise. But Ben running 3:57 is
really really impressive. – I’ve been to tons of continents, but I’ve never seen the
outside of my hotel room other than the track, so to
come up here and spend it with the guys was really fun. Sounds kind of bro-y that
I say it out loud now. (peaceful orchestral music) – These guys really bonded
as friends, more than competitors, and I think
that a famous quote from Emil Zatopek, his quote
was, “The victory is great, “but the friendship of all is greater.” (peaceful piano music)

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