Tuesday, April 12, 2011
The 2007 Drake Relays will always be special for Alan Webb.
After all, it was then that he ran the fastest mile in the 101-year history of the Drake Relays in a time of 3:51.71, eclipsing Steve Scott's 25-year-old record of 3:55.26. That performance kick-started the best year of his career.
What you may not know is the other reason it is special to Webb, and impacted his life more than any other performance the American record-holder has ever turned in.
It was in April 2007, at the Drake Relays, that Alan and his wife Julia Rudd recall they had their first official date. Married in October 2010, they look back at Des Moines and Drake with fondness not only for the number of trips they've made to the Drake Relays, but for playing a role in how they came to be Mr. & Mrs. Alan Webb.
Rudd also is an elite athlete who earned 11 All-America honors as a student-athlete at Division III Wisconsin-LaCrosse.
The couple was in Des Moines the past two days for Alan to promote the second annual Grand Blue Mile in downtown Des Moines, an event co-sponsored by Wellmark and the Drake Relays. Webb will compete in both the April 26 Grand Blue Mile and the April 30 special invitational mile of the Relays in Drake Stadium, his third appearance after winning the event in 2007 and '09.
Webb, who holds the American record in the mile (3:46.91), will face stiff competition in the both events from a field that includes Boaz Lalang, winner of the both inaugural Grand Blue Mile and the Relays mile last year. The invitational field also will include Steve Slattery, Tommy Schmitz, Peter van der Westhuizen, Duane Solomon and Philip Rotich.
Webb's message on Tuesday, however, was one of health and wellness, encouraging the public to come out for a community run, and to register to take part in the Grand Blue Mile. The theme of the event is "Your race, your pace, your mile," the message Webb emphasized in visits to a variety of local media outlets both Monday evening and throughout the day Tuesday.
Webb talked about the public having a chance to take part in the Drake Relays in a very personal way, and to promote health and wellness in the process.
Greeted by sunny skies and warm temperatures, the perfect cap to Webb's visit was the community run at noon Tuesday. It began at 13th and Grand Avenue, in front of the new Wellmark headquarters building, which will serve as the finish line for the Grand Blue Mile. The perfect spring weather and chance to run alongside one of the world's best brought out 75 runners for the 4.5-mile outing around Gray's Lake and back to the Wellmark building. Webb used the run as a cool down after embarking on a separate 40-minute training run just before the community gathering.
The overwhelming turnout of runners today for an informal event speaks to the rich history of the Drake Relays, the appeal of Alan Webb and the tremendous dedication of the local running community. The popularity of the Grand Blue Mile has increased immensely since the inaugural event a year ago, and 2011 entries are expected to double or triple those of 2010.
The 102nd Drake Relays week begins Monday, April 25 with the Beautiful Bulldog contest, then follows with the Grand Blue Mile April 26, the Pole Vault in the Mall competition at Jordan Creek Town Center April 27, and the Drake Relays at Drake Stadium April 28-30.
For more information and to register for the Grand Blue Mile please visit www.GrandBlueMile.com.