Catching Up With Bring Back the Mile's Ryan Lamppa
In the beginning of 2012 fans across the sport were introduced to Bring Back the Mile. The movement launched a national discussion around the Mile, both on the track and on the roads, as coaches, athletes, fans, race directors and others in the sport started to take action, re-introducing the Mile to the American sporting public.
Bring Back the Mile gained plenty of traction over the past year, so we decided to catch up with the man in charge, Ryan Lamppa, discussing how year one of the movement went, what the goals are for the future of the organization and much more.
NOTE: With the one-year anniversary of Bring Back the Mile on the horizon, BBTM launched the Bring Back the Mile Anniversary Contest. Submit your support for the mile and BBTM for your chance to win a $359 gift card to Running Warehouse and a few other fun prizes.
Scott Bush (SB): Bring Back the Mile has been around for almost a year now. How are you feeling about the movement as a whole and the progress you've made?
Ryan Lamppa (RL): We will celebrate our first year on January 18, 2013, and in 2012, Bring Back the Mile established a beachhead for the storied distance and also created a "buzz" as people, especially athletes and event directors, are talking much more about the Mile than before our launch.
Overall, the response from the media such as Sports Illustrated, Mile legends such as Jim Ryun, current Milers such as Leo Manzano, Mile Maniacs, fans and others has been overwhelming, inspiring and humbling. In short, BBTM has touched a chord here and we plan to expand its resonance.
SB: How has the overall mission evolved over the past bunch of months?
RL: Our mission has remained the same: to elevate and celebrate the Mile, the sport's most iconic and relatable distance. In a word, BBTM is about promotion. From day one, we have focused on sharing the stories of Milers young and old, prep or pro as well as the events that host the Mile. There is no doubt that the Mile is deeply rooted amongst fans and non-fans of Track & Field, but this is exactly why we launched BBTM: to emotionally connect the public again with the sport of Track & Field via an event and distance that they "get" and like.
SB: What type of traction and support are you seeing among followers and fans of Bring Back the Mile?
RL: Our followers and fans are very engaged and excited about "bringing" back the Mile. Their passion for the Mile is evident in their tweets and emails and the conversations we have had around the country.
SB: You're campaigning to bring back the mile to high school federations. Have you seen much progress with these organizations?
RL: Implementing a state federation plan will take time and resources. Massachusetts was and is the only state not to drop the Mile (and 2 Mile) when tracks went metric in this country circa 1980. So there is precedent to keep or bring back the Mile at the high school level. BBTM is based in California and the state has a rich Mile history so the CIF is the first state federation that we will engage. We are also working with "State Captains" around the country and encourage people to connect with us if they are interested in helping the cause.
The 1600, at the high school level, was logical when tracks went metric, but it was the easy way - 4 laps, close enough - not the best way. There's really no history for the 1600 like the Mile's sub-4 minute standard, and running the 1600 certainly hasn't helped the sport with the media and the general public.
For the past 30-plus years, except in select meets and Massachusetts, American boys and girls have been denied the chance to race the Mile, and it's a shame.
SB: The mile is illustrious and historic, yet challenging. How are you able to capture the glory such greats like Jim Ryun and Mary Slaney, yet relate it back down to the high school athlete (or road runner) who's maybe never run the mile before?
RL: Because we as Americans think, speak and relate in miles, it is part of our national DNA (hence, our tagline: America's distance), and by celebrating past Mile greats such as Jim Ryun and current Milers such as 2012 Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano, we want to link the past, present and future of the Mile as well as the events and the fans via our media channels - www.bringbackthemile.com, Mile wire and social media.
Time and time again high school athletes and pros such as Jenny Simpson have shared stories of being a "Miler" at home and with friends. Leo Manzano, in our 4 Minutes with a Miler series, shared just how important and exciting it was when he broke 4 minutes for the first time and why his Austin spring event isn't called the Manzano 1600.
Put simply, no American boy has ever dreamed of breaking 4 minutes for 1600 meters.
SB: Bring Back the Mile seems very U.S. focused, specifically at creating change at the prep level. Any chance the movement will spread its wings to the collegiate and professional ranks a bit more?
RL: Actually, our main focus has been promotion because prep level change is a marathon project. Collegiate change to running more Miles will likely happen sooner if / when the IAAF accepts Mile times for 1500 qualifying for the Olympics and World Championships. The IAAF did accept Mile times for the 2012 World Indoor Championships so progress has been made there.
In 2012, on the professional side, we promoted and celebrated via our media channels numerous professional Miles including Wanamaker, Pre Classic Bowerman, adidas Dream, the inaugural Liberty Mile and Fifth Avenue as well as the athletes (website snapshot bios and our "4 Minutes with a Miler" series).
Also, globally we have had great response from Great Britain, particularly on the media side. They understand the history of the Mile and are in disbelief when we explain that our prep athletes run the misfit 1600. In September we ran a global Magic Mile challenge with our friends at MarathonTalk.com, which was received very well.
SB: It seems like a good idea to start a nationwide series of major mile competitions. Any plans like this in the works?
RL: We are working on a Bring Back the Mile Tour for 2013. Said tour will focus on promoting the Mile and the tour events (part of our Big Tent philosophy), and in following years, we envision a national series and a grand prix professional circuit.
SB: Bring Back the Mile is doing great things, but you also work for Running USA. Could you speak about the organization a bit and its mission?
RL: I am the media director of Running USA and one of its founders. Running USA was formed in March 1999 as a national non-profit and its mission is to advance the growth and success of the running industry. We serve as a clearinghouse for the sport, produce a popular annual conference and distribute running news and stats via our website (RunningUSA.org), Running USA wire, Running USA Industry E-News and our widely cited State of the Sport reports. In addition, we support athlete development with the annual Allan Steinfeld Development Award (a $25,000 training group grant).
SB: The sport as a whole is evolving. What are a couple areas you're going to be watching over the coming year?
Sponsor logo usage for athletes; the impact of the athletes' movement; USATF's direction under Max Siegel, and, of course, the expansion of Bring Back the Mile's beachhead.
SB: What do you feel needs to be worked on over the next quadrennial to elevate the status of both road racing and track and field?
RL: Better coordination within the sport to promote the events and our talented athletes, and moreover, to find sponsors and other revenue sources to implement better promotion and marketing. A plan is only as good as the resources and people behind it.
SB: What's one big idea you wish would happen in our sport?
RL: That Bring Back the Mile reaches a tipping point with mainstream America because if America, including corporate America, embraces the Mile again, its impact will go beyond the Mile and our sport.
Remember, the Bring Back the Mile anniversary contest is taking submissions until January 20. Submit your support for BBTM and enter for the chance to win a $359 gift certificate to Running Warehouse.