Alan Webb Reflects On Career And How To Break Records

* Alan Webb reflects on his record-breaking performances during his high school career

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January 20, 2001 was a special day for Alan Webb as he crossed the finish line in 3:59.86, becoming the first high school boy to dip under four minutes in the mile indoors and the first runner to do so since 1967. 

"It was a special day for me," Webb said. "It started to change how I thought about myself and my ability to compete at the next level, at the higher level beyond just my state or even in the U.S. It made me think about my goals of competing at the international level."

That moment catapulted the Virginia native into a territory that he wasn't familiar with. Webb remembers having the first glimpse of being in the spotlight in print media as The New York Times had him on the first page of the January 21, 2001 edition.

Since that race, Webb's confidence grew as his workouts showed promise for another breakthrough moment. 

About four months later, he competed inside the historic Hayward Field in Eugene, Oregon, for the Prefontaine Classic. As an 18-year-old senior, he toed the line against a professional field. He crossed the finish as the fifth fastest competitor, but Webb stopped the clock with a national high school record-breaking performance of 3:53.43. 

"I just went into the race trying to beat 3:59.86, which was my previous best," Webb said. "I ran the race in order to do that. It was a surprise. Jim Ryun had been 'the man' I was looking towards trying to emulate. Specifically, to that time, I wasn't focusing on [breaking the national record], I was focusing on trying to get a little bit better." 

Within the last decade, many elite distance athletes vocalized that going after Webb's national record is a top priority. However, in order to do so, Webb feels that steps need to be taken to accomplish this.

"You can say Jim's record can be that next step forward," Webb said. "3:53 is the national record, but 3:55 is a clean number just like four-flat is. In order for someone to break my record you have run under 3:55. 5-0 is a clean number that everyone can look towards."

To Webb's point, there are 20 sub-four-minute milers in history, but how many of those athletes have gone 3:55?

Webb is the only individual to do so. 

What led Webb to this type of success? 

"Focus on the process and try to get better each and every day and do the right things, eventually the perfect race will pop up," Webb said. "To get to the next level you need to take the stairs. There's no way around it. Take the stairs to the next level."

In this season alone, five high school boys broke through the four-minute barrier. During the indoor season, Connor Burns crossed the finish line at the Last Chance Indoor National Qualifier with a 3:59.11, becoming the first boy this 2023 season to break this barrier. 

From there it was like a domino effect as Simeon Birnbaum ran the fastest time in the nation during the spring with a 3:57.53 to win the HOKA Festival of Miles with the fourth fastest time in high school history. Rocky Hansen, Tinoda Matsatsa, and Jackson Heidesch were also in that race and accomplished breaking four. 

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