Mile News

Breaking Four: A Family Affair: Lap 3

October 11, 2012

By Liam Boylan-Pett, Bring Back the Mile

Editor's Note: This is part three in a four part series written by Liam Boylan-Pett, #315 on the United States sub-4 minute Mile list, boasting a personal best of 3:58.19 (2011 Falmouth Mile). He obtained Bachelor's Degrees in Sociology and Creative Writing from Columbia University and finished his NCAA eligibility at Georgetown University where he completed a Master's Degree in Journalism. Liam currently trains with the New Jersey-New York Track Club and you can read his occasional musings on his Tumblr - Will Run for Food.

Lap 1 | Lap 2 | Lap 3 | Gun Lap

The clock read 3:00 as Sam Bair III crossed the ¾ mark of the race at the 2010 Penn State National Invitational.

He was in third place still as the bell rang and they ran into the final lap. The crowd was in a frenzy now, all looking from the clock to Bair III and back again.


A runner in green bolted away from the pack of three. Bair III strained to stay close. Around the turn, his back arched as his shoulders tightened. Runner’s rigor mortis started setting in. He strained to finish the race.

Binghamton’s Erik Van Ingen won the race, Bair III wasn’t close behind. It was eerily silent around the track as the spectators looked at the scoreboard waiting for results.

They popped up: 1. Erik Van Ingen – 3:59.58. 2. Sam Bair – 4:00.35.

The crowd sighed. It would have to wait.

“Tomorrow, this is yesterday’s news,” is what Sam Bair, Jr. often says to his son. “Get back on the horse and start riding. You never know what’s gonna happen when the gun goes.”

So Bair III jumped back on. He jumped on a flight out to Seattle in February that would hopefully end the waiting.

The University of Washington has an oversized indoor track. At 320 meters, it takes a little over five laps to complete a Mile. Being indoors with no wind and long curves, it is conducive to running fast.

Thanks to, the race was being streamed live over the Internet. Bair, Jr. could watch his son attempt to break four yet another time. The announcers behind the camera were well aware of the back-story.

As the race progressed they gave updates on the splits. “They’re through in 1:59,” said Ryan Fenton, FloTrack’s play-by-play announcer, “and Sam Bair is right there. Could this be the time he does it?”

The footage was choppy and a little blurry, but a pack of runners floated over the track. Bair III remained in the midst of it. To the viewer, the pack looks like a blob of runners racing undeterred, moving as one along the tartan passing below them. In the midst of it however, there are runners all around, one bad step and down they go.

It is more of a controlled chaos than the seemingly calm picture displayed on the computer screen.

Around the track they ran. A group of 12 runners making their way towards what they hoped was a sub-4 Mile. They came through the ¾ mark in 2:59. The excitement started to build as Bair III remained in the pack. He was fifth with 320 meters to go. The bell rang signifying the final lap.

He tightened up again. Down the backstretch the group behind him swallowed him up.

It couldn’t possibly happen again, could it?

For the Gun Lap CLICK here.

Tags: sam bair iii (5) , ryan fenton (1) , liam boylan-pett (8) , erik van ingen (3)

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