Saturday, September 08, 2007

Jim Sorensen: Master Miler

My recent blogging subject has been rather depressing so to get more upbeat let me introduce you to a true icon in the making, forty year old American Jim Sorensen. One of the great marks in Sport has been the sub four minute mile and it remains the definitive measure for an elite middle distance runner. Only one man has run the mile under four minutes as a forty year old or older: the four time Olympian, World Championship gold medalist, and former indoor mile world record holder Eamonn Coghlan. Now Jim Sorensen has a real shot at being the second ever, and the first outdoor if he can do it on a regular track. This past June he ran a 1,500 in a new Masters world record time of 3:44.06, a pace which translates in 4:00 flat for the mile.

The mile (the 1,500 is sometimes called the metric mile) is a special event in athletics straddling both sprint and distance disciplines and so requires speed and endurance in almost equal measure. The formula for an over 40 sub-four minute miler is an elite runner who could run a sub-four mile with several seconds to spare at his peak and a willingness to continue training without a significant break long after his competitive days have passed. Jim Sorensen is just that man. The 1991 NCAA II 1500 champion and runner up in the 1996 U.S. Olympic Trials (he just narrowly missed making the qualifying time to actually participate in those Games) he has never left the sport he clearly loves. And boy he must love running. In an excellent interview by Masters News and Muse he describes his constant battle with injury, how he thought in 2000 a pelvic stress fracture had finished his competitive career, goes into some detail on how he trains (between 40 and 60 miles a week depending on the season), and his racing experiences. I strongly recommend you read it. As a former middle distance man myself it’s surreal listening to him talk about setting a Masters outdoor 800 meter American record in 1:51.57 a few days after his fortieth birthday and confessing the week before he ran a half marathon in 1:12:24 (“I ran too fast ... it shows that at 40 you can still do dumb things”). Absolutely incredible! Go Jim!

A funny thing happened to Sorensen along the way in life when he followed John Rembao, his coach, to Arizona. Sorensen – who doesn’t look or dress much like a runner (usually ran with a plaid shirt on and training pants with holes in them to go along with glasses he had taped together!) - was asked by the head coach of the U of A programme to actually get off the track one day when Sorensen was out warming up, with the coach saying something to the effect that the track was for athletes only (as opposed to everyday joggers). Taught one and all not to judge a book by its cover – not then, and certainly not 13 years later -

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