via /r/advancedrunning

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Photo: Jim Crossin

Q: So, what exactly is Merber’s priority in a race like that mile?

Pre-race, his instructions were to go 3.50 pace. He takes it out right there, and no one goes with him. So he looks over his shoulder and then slows down in laps 2/3 until they regain contact. And then when he speeds up again in lap 4 … same story: no one goes with him. What’s a rabbit supposed to do with that kind of field?

I guess it looks like his #1 job is to pull whoever is running 2nd, and then his 2nd priority is to hit 3.50 pace through 1200. Or did he improvise? Genuinely curious here.

Note that I’m in no way criticizing the guy, because he sure seemed to have the legs to go ~2.53 through 1209.

A: Honestly, it is an extremely difficult position for a rabbit to be in, but I think I handled it as best as I possibly could. I spoke to Centrowitz earlier in the week and he told me to get out and run 56.0 but he’d rather me be faster than slower. So I went out with that intention, and assumed he’d be on me. For everyone else in the race, they make that same assumption. They’ve heard he requested 2:52 and so they expect him to take second duty and for it to be strung out and rolling. Centro was apparently feeling a bit sick and so when I realized he didn’t get out as hard as he planned and Garrett finds himself in the lead I have to slow down. But if I put the breaks on too hard that’ll be a disaster so I just immediately fall into 29.x and wait for them to attach. I tried on a couple occasions to press a bit, but a gap would open so I just kept that pace rolling until it was time to step off. I squeezed it down a bit the last 100 in hopes of winding them up (a move Willis preaches and taught me at Swarthmore). I felt great, and believe I did the right thing. The mistake a lot of people would probably make is to just run 2:52 like they were told, never look back and the field would jog a 3:00 and kick. After the race, the meet director and a lot of people whose opinion I really respect knew it was a tough situation to be put in, but that I did everything right and were happy with the job.

My plan to rabbit this race came a couple months ago as I was hurt in the beginning of the fall, but have been pleasantly surprised at how quickly my fitness has come along and was a bit disappointed I didn’t get in a fast race like at the other top US guys. But I wanted a low key indoor season without much excitement and that’s what I am getting. The perks of rabbiting is that afterwards everyone is really appreciative and it’s good karma. Obviously at this point, I am really good friends with the majority of the field despite being in constant competition with them. One day they’ll probably get me back, ideally by coming to the Long Island Mile.

Still had a full week of mileage and right after the race (about 7-8 minutes later) I did a quick workout of 2x1k (2:51-2:52) and then 400/300/200 (58-42-26) and got in a long cool down. Next weekend I am going to do a low key 3k in Staten Island and call it a season. Glad to have gone through the race-day routine today and walk away with confidence.

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Author: kylemerber

Kyle Merber is a professional runner for HOKA One One and the New Jersey*New York Track Club. He has personal bests of 3:34/3:52 but would prefer that not be included in his bio because he believes his writing should be judged independently. He tweets a lot @TheRealMerb.

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