Aisha Praught-Leer and training partner Emma Coburn, both Olympian steeplechasers, are in the midst of 80-mile training weeks as they prepare for the Aug. 31 Diamond League Championships in Brussels, where both will run the steeplechase. Wednesday evening, Leer took a break to win the Pearl Street Mile, clocking 4 minutes, 50 seconds, to beat early leader Maggie Montoya (4:57).
“That was super fun,” said Praught-Leer, 28, who took the gold medal in the 2018 Commonwealth Games steeplechase, competing for Jamaica. “Running hard is fun.”
Praught-Leer moved to Boulder with husband Will Leer, an elite miler, early in 2017. She is part of a group coached by Coburn’s husband, Joe Bosshard.
Josef Tessema of Colorado Springs and the American Distance Project finally won the men’s mile, after taking third in 2016 and second last year. He was a last-hour addition to the field, finding out he made the field only at 4:20 p.m., when he was getting ready for a run in Castle Rock. Somehow he made it to Pearl Street Mall in time to warm up and race.
Tessema, a 4:01 miler who is training for the 2020 Olympic trials, was four seconds back of leader Wade Meddles, but came back with 250 meters to go, on the backside of the courthouse, to take the lead and sprint in for the win in 4:16, three seconds up on Meddles.
“It feels good to win,” Tessema told boulderrunning.com. “I would not have been satisfied with anything less than first. I was worried I might have been tired for today.”
That’s because Tessema did a workout Tuesday with Olympic medalist Paul Chelimo, consisting of 3×800 meters in 2:10, followed by 3×300 meters in 40 seconds. But Tessema is confident in his kick, knowing just how far to hang back from Meddles.
“I made a tactical mistake last year,” said Tessema. “Today I timed my kick right. The mile is a strategic race. It does not matter how good of shape you are in if you do not know how to race it.”
Both Tessema and Praught-Leer missed the $500 course record bonus offered up by Mark Plaatjes and InMotion Rehabilitation. No matter, said Praught-Leer. The goal was “to see how it was running a mile in the middle of a hard week of training.”
Turns out the race was easier than than the hard interval sessions she and Coburn have been putting in, the kind of “hard anaerobic workouts that leave you laying on the track.” Literally, Praught-Leer added.
The new course, now comprising two laps and finishing directly in front of the courthouse, was spectator friendly, with fans lining both sides of the start and finish. There were roughly 400 finishes in the different “waves,” or races, that included a kids half mile. Several of the top 10 finishers in both the men’s and women’s races are expected at the Mile High Mile, next Thursday Aug. 16, at the Boulder Road Runners on the University of Colorado Potts Field track.