Making the Most of Your Mile: Liberty Mile
America's #1 sports city hosts a fast, hot, $25,000 Mile showdown
By Bring Back the Mile
PITTSBURGH - We sat down with Patrice Matamoros, Race Director for the inaugural GNC Live Well Liberty Mile, a Bring Back the Mile Featured Event Partner. A passionate Steel City resident and road race promoter extraordinaire, she discusses the road to launching the Liberty Mile, the uniquness of the distance, supporting professional athletes and challenging anyone and everyone to run fast. Patrice has served as the race director of the Dick's Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon since 2008, successfully re-launching it after a 5 year hiatus.
BBTM: It has been a short planning window since you’ve announced the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile, can you take us through the impetus for this Mile event?
Patrice: Yeah, I’d be happy to. Actually, for a couple of years I’d been shopping the idea around town because I love the model of the 5th Avenue Mile. I talked to a lot of different corporations to see if they would be interested in sponsorship because I think it has a great allure to it: it’s a Mile, it’s fast, it’s hot, it’s $25,000 being thrown out to top Milers across the country as well as international runners.
So, for the past two or three years I’ve sold that concept, but then ended up being able to talk to GNC about it. It was exactly what they were looking for in reference to an event because they are a really performance-driven and health-driven corporation; a marquee corporation in the city of Pittsburgh. They immediately jumped at it and said, “the event sounds like us and something we’d love to commit too; it is somewhere we see ourselves in sporting events.”
With support of GNC and a couple of the others there is $25,000 in prize money; $20,000 just for the elites. Especially in an Olympic year what does it mean to you as a race director to support aspiring Olympians and this general idea of breaking down barriers in a Mile event?
What it means to us is that it’s a symbolic time for an inaugural event in light of the fact that the Olympics will be prior to it. What the Olympics always does is inspire and motivate people. If you take advantage of that opportunity to draw upon that base you can really gain momentum. There is so much more awareness to what your event is and the message it offers in the sense that, “hey look at some other athletes in the United States and how fantastic they are and how performance-driven they are.” And even if not, we know you can do a half (marathon), we know you can do a 10K. What can you do one (Mile) in?
It is really just putting that challenge out there to run really fast. That’s what it’s about. It’s about a couple of different things and it speaks to a couple different audiences, but the Mile is so achievable it allows everyone to be a superstar for the day.
Amongst the elites, what has been the response from the Men and the Women?
The response has been phenomenal actually. We have had a lot of people call us that are very interested in the event and want to participate in it. I think it is one other way that we make a commitment to support American athletes. I think that people look at it that way too in the sport and they say, “thanks for having this and thanks for supporting us.” This is just one other way we can support our runners in the United States.
Turning to the race itself. It is a unique evening road race on a Friday night. Sounds like a fantastic Friday night with a fast course and finish line festival. Why Friday night in the Steel City?
Well our city has been the #1 sports city in America for a couple of years. So, that means that there are a lot of different sporting events in the City of Pittsburgh that we are working with and we wanted to be complementary to other sporting events such as the Pirates (baseball). We were looking at offering something in addition to what was already going on in and when we look at the Friday night crowd in the summer they’re a fun crowd of people who want to be in the city because they work there and want to bring their kids or families into the city for a fun night together.
The finish line is actually about three blocks from a concert that is part of a summer concert series in a popular area called Market Square. So, there is going to be a great concert in Market Square and there is also going to be a jazz concert another five or six blocks away in a restaurant called Element. So, when you pair two different offerings on a Friday night it’s easy for people to come in and have their families meet after work and really explore the city in a way they may not have. It’s something very accessible and really fun too.
In regards to your outreach, your social media campaign and team has been great. We see Twitter hashtags like #myfirstrace #ichallengeu and #whyrun1. We even noticed recently that you’re challenging people to race animals and send in videos. Is that correct?
(Laughs) Yeah, we have a pretty creative team and we have a weekly brainstorming session. One of our writers had said in that in doing some research she wanted to include in an email that a pig could run a seven-minute Mile. It developed from there, but we did not want to send a message to have people comparing themselves to pigs. So, we looked at what other animals might be fun or cool to compare themselves with. If you’re faster than chicken you run a six-minute Mile. If you’re faster than a bee you can run a eight-minute Mile. We were looking at different animals and how fast they run and it became comical to us. We wanted to say “I can run faster than a chicken” or “I can’t run faster than a chicken.” Let’s make some animal shirts and have a really fun brand.
The other aspect to the event is that you’re pushing this idea that the Mile is not only great for beginners, but also great for marathoners. Young and old. All across the spectrum. What do you tell those that might be skeptical about running this shorter distance when they’re used to participating in the Dick’s Sporting Goods Pittsburgh Marathon, Half or 5K?
I think those are our really committed runners, those who commit to running the Marathon or Half-Marathon. I think that it may not naturally occur to them to say, “well let me just run one Mile.” That would never occur to them in training. So, what I think we do is challenge them appropriately by saying, “hey, we know you can do all the halfs and fulls, but have you ever done just one (Mile) to see how fast you can do it in? We know you can do a ten-minute Mile through 26 or eleven-minute Mile through 13, so what if you could only commit to one Mile and you could run it as fast as you wanted too ‘What could you do?”
For people it was really interesting. We had an event with our Steel City Road Runners Club and I was asking some of the members when was the last time they had run a Mile for time. They all know their pace when they’re running several Miles and I think what it did was bring out this spirit of competitiveness. One guy said he could probably run a 6:10. And another guy said he could probably run a 5:50. It then became very competitive amongst the group of about fifteen people saying, “yeah, well I can break the six-minute Mile”. It became fun and that’s where people get it and that’s the added explanation that’s needed to show it’s just in the spirit of competitiveness.
We know you can run far, let’s see how fast you can run this time. It’s a way to think outside of the box. It would have never occurred to them naturally to see what they can do one (Mile) in as a speed check.
That begs the question, when was the last time you ran a Mile? Were you a Miler growing up?
Yes, I ran in High School, in Montana, and was a State Champion. I competed in college in Cross Country, but then never ran a Mile again because by then I had moved up to different distances. Then I tore my labrum and I have a permanent injury that prevents me from running. Although, I did sneak a Mile in about year and a half ago. Without training and years of not being able to run I was able to do a 8:05 Mile with my son. But, I couldn’t walk for four days after (laughs) because I really shouldn’t have been doing that. It was fun for me to do the Mile again.
In closing, what does the Mile mean to you and what can it mean to Pittsburgh and Americans in general?
What it really means is another way to introduce running to people who may not have even thought about running in the past. It makes running so accessible. People can easily get through one Mile and I think it appeals to more of the masses if they can come out and just run that.
But, I also think there is another side to it. It’s also for the elites, for speed, and for time. It’s something where people can put their mark out there. Maybe in High School you ran a six-minute Mile and now you are 42; what can you run it in? What about those gym teachers that made you run that Mile you hated. Maybe you didn’t run for years because you didn’t want to do it again and now you start running to show your gym teacher that they didn’t break you. “I can still do a Mile and can probably do it faster than what you had me do it in because I love running now and that’s my passion.”
It speaks to a whole variety of elements. We just had a pretty powerful video sent it from a girl who has a severe medical issue and her doctor said she would never run again. This hasn’t been released yet, but she is now going to challenge everybody to show her doctors that they are wrong and that she is going to run one Mile. So, it can mean so many different things.
That is what why we have all the different heats. We wanted to showcase all the different aspects of the Mile. The “hey I’m just running for fun; it’s a recreational thing for me and my family on a Friday night.” Or, “hey I’m going to run for charity because I’m passionate about this Cause and this is a way for me to give something back.” Or, “I’m on a corporate team and I want to beat our competitor’s team in this area; there’s no way they can compete with us in the Mile.”
Then we go to the Open Pittsburgh Mile - “hey world, here is what Pittsburgh is about and how many five-minute and six-minute Milers we have.” Then the elites in breaking five-minutes in the Mile for women and four-minutes for Men. This is the only event that our elite runners are going to finish after our recreational runners and everyone else. This is truly an event that will inspire people because you are going to see the best of the best.
So often you don’t know what is going to hit someone, but I bet that if you watch the finish of the professional Mile I can guarantee you that kids are going to be motivated and amazed at how fast people can run; adults are going to be motivated that they did it. They’re in the same class as an elite runner because they just did the same exact thing as an elite runner did. You’re doing the same thing and on the same level as the elites.
Thank you Patrice. Best of luck with the GNC Live Well Liberty Mile.