A couple of months ago I wrote about Anthony Famiglietti’s 3:55 mile, on a treadmill, at The Running Event. The only thing not ideal about his effort there was the number of people who knew about it, that is to say, not many did beyond those who found themselves proximal to the Zwift booth when “Fam” began that run.
The day after his mile – which I only knew about because I was proximal to that Zwift booth at that time – I looked every place I thought it should be, and I couldn’t find anything about it.
I love watching a good footrace but that run he did there captured me because it wasn’t a race. It was a performance piece. If you’re having a bad day as a single runner in a field of 18 or 27 or 33 on a track it’s, oh, he had a bad day. Better luck next time. Not here. There’s no slinking off the track on the backstretch. Nowhere to hide. Folks have devoted their time, maybe their money, to see you run.
So I asked Fam if he’d like to do something like it at Endurance Exchange and I promised him that we’d honor the effort. We advertised to you all that Fam intended to do something special. Which he’s capable of doing because he is a 2-time Olympian in the 3000 meter steeplechase and 6-time national champion from the steeple to the 5000 meters. He told me he thought he’d like to try to run fast for 2 miles.
As we held this Conference at Sun Devil Stadium I thought, heck, easy to borrow a treadmill. Right? Could not get one for love or money. Making this harder were the requirements: at least 15mph; and emitting a BLE signal. As this Conference was underway – 600 coaches, race organizers, and other industry folk – I spent 3 days rushing around metro Phoenix looking for a treadmill. I finally found a Woodway 4Front at EXOS, an impressive physical therapy facility that came to my rescue. The good folks at Woodway remoted in some software updates and we at least had a shot at making this run happen.
It was a rush to just get this treadmill to the event in time. I hadn’t committed an unforced error of this magnitude in decades, or so it felt. I can’t express to you how irked I was at myself for planning so poorly and here’s the heck of it: I have this very Woodway treadmill in my workshop, outfitted precisely for this run. I could’ve brought it with had I known it was going to be this hard to borrow one. (Woodway would have provided one for this event had I just given them time.) At one point I was leafing through Craigslist Phoenix trying to buy a used Woodway from somebody which meant, yes, I was going to end up owning a second Woodway just so I wouldn’t break any promises I’d made to you all, to Fam, to the folks attending the Conference.
But for all that, by 2 minutes into Fam’s run, I said, out loud, but to myself, “It was all worth it.”
There’s something about a guy who has a talent for suffering. Who suffers on demand. That video I’ve linked to above, it’s less than 2 minutes in length, it’s not the whole 8 minutes and 20-something seconds, but it’ll give you a flavor. This is one where you really had to be there. What you can’t see is that there’s no fan, no climate control suited for the effort. Just several hundred exuberant people making it louder and hotter. It feels more like Fight Club than footracing. (If you want to see the whole run, here's a video of all 8:24 of it; the run proper starts 7:30 into it.)
I’ve heard it said there’s a trick to running on a treadmill. That it’s easier if you know how to do it. One guy wrote that Fam made it easier on himself because he ran at the very front of the treadmill, that it’s harder if you run further back. I’m trying to wrap my math brain around that logic. Still, okay, maybe there’s a secret method.
Fam went through the first mile in 4:16, and then he closed on 4:08. Those who joined in to cheer him in-game, during the Zwift run placed on the Slowtwitch schedule of weekly Zwift runs, were getting lapped once by Fam for every 2 laps they ran, and that’s if they were running pretty fast. I run a lot on Zwift, and on a Woodway, and I haven’t noted anyone who’s figured out how to game the treadmill.
Fam has this part of the run market cornered. He’s got a gift and a talent for these treadmill efforts. If one is anywhere around you, if you get a chance to see Anthony Famiglietti run one of these, you won’t be disappointed.