The Brawl on Nicollet Mall!
Minutes after Olympic silver medalist Nick Willis broke David Torrence’s Medtronic TC 1 Mile course record last year, Torrence formally declared that he would take his record back in 2014. The friendly call-out – Torrence congratulated Willis as well, it should be noted – departed from distance running’s typically non-confrontational code.
Wondering what the sport would look like with a bit more of boxing’s swagger, we asked Willis and Torrence to take their gloves off and raise the rhetorical volume ahead of their upcoming duel at Thursday’s Medtronic TC 1 Mile. We’re dubbing the battle between the defending champion and course record holder (Willis) and the event’s lone three-time champ (Torrence) the “Brawl on Nicollet Mall.”
Here’s how our two champs – tongues firmly in cheek – weighed in before the race:
David, level with us, didn’t you find it sneaky that Nick Willis chose to race the Medtronic TC 1 Mile in a year when you didn't compete?
Torrence: Yes, it was very sneaky. Extremely typical of a New Zealander. A real challenger would have declared the assault on my record, allowing a response for me to defend. But he struck when my back was turned. I should have expected nothing less from a Kiwi.
Nick, you slowed down before the finish line in last year's race, is it true you did that to spare David Torrence’s feelings, not wanting to break his record by too much?
Willis: Oh is that who held the record? I wasn't really sure who this David Torrence character everyone was referring to at the press conference last year. In all seriousness, I eased up so David might not be scared off and not return the following year. Had it been too fast, he might have stuck to downhill miles in Berkeley
David, there was a bit of a tailwind last year. Is it true you told friends that Nick wouldn’t have broken 4:00, if not for the weather last year?
Torrence: I told my friends that the weather at last year's Medtronic TC 1 Mile was so ridiculously performance enhancing that I was surprised that the new record was even allowed. An unbelievable SIX MEN broke four minutes that day, when in the past it was just one: myself. The numbers don't lie, 2013 was an outlier. But when I return, no matter the conditions, I will show him what a real sub-4 minute mile in downtown Minneapolis looks like.
Willis: A tail wind on that course also means cold air from the frozen Canadian Tundra. We froze on the start line. Bring a warm southerly any day!!!
Nick, when you first realized that the course was slightly downhill after the first quarter, didn't you say you were surprised David hadn't run faster than 3:58 in at least one of his Medtronic TC 1 Mile victories?
Willis: No, 3.58 was a very good run for him. He should be very proud of that!
David, your thoughts?
Torrence: The main reason why I didn't run faster was purely choice. Nobody wants to see a race where the guy is just way out front and there's no drama or excitement. And at the end of the day, although I'm racing hard, I'm also trying to entertain all the good people of Minnesota.
Nick, assuming your goal is to win and improve upon your record, what do you think a good goal for David would be?
Willis: If he can help pace Will Leer and me through the first 800m, and get some glory up front early on, he should be pretty happy.
What do you think of that, David?
Torrence: My goal is to win and take back the record and put it back in American hands. The Medtronic TC 1 Mile has lived under this Kiwi reign for too long. My only hope for Nick, is that he doesn't get so depressed after suffering such a brutal loss to me and any other Americans that he doesn't retire on the spot right then!
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Will David Torrence wrestle the course record back into American hands? Will Nick Willis be forced into retirement? Or, will Torrence be but a footnote in a race dominated by Willis, ending his career running minor downhill events in California?
Or, should both of these great Medtronic TC 1 Mile champions remember there are twenty other runners racing in the men’s professional field on Thursday night?
All questions to be answered … at the Brawl on Nicollet Mall!