- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 27, 2007

The 2007 Visa Championship Series opened last night with the Reebok Boston Indoor Games. Over the next four weeks, many of the top runners in the sport will compete each weekend leading up to the indoor national championships.

In addition to providing more than $1 million in prize money and athlete-support dollars, the Visa Series gives U.S. athletes the chance to win bonus money during the indoor and outdoor seasons.

Indoors, top American athletes compete at four elite track meets during the 2007 season — last night’s Reebok Boston Indoor Games, the 100th Millrose Games on Feb. 2 in New York, the Tyson Invitational on Feb. 9 in Fayetteville, Ark., and the AT&T; USA Indoor Track & Field Championships on Feb. 24 and 25 in Boston. Athletes compete for prize money and the chance to share the $50,000 indoor season jackpot.

Many of the sport’s marquee athletes bypass the indoor track session to recuperate for the more lucrative outdoor season, with its few money meets in the United States but more-so with its financial rewards on the deep European tour during the summer.

That especially is true during an Olympic or World Championships year — the World Championships are scheduled for this summer.

Nonetheless, one athlete who has not competed much under the cover since high school has made a commitment to racing at least twice in indoors this season.

Alan Webb, the Reston world-class miler, was one of the few headliners at last night’s Reebok Boston Indoor Games. He won in 3:55.18. For those who missed the meet in person, you will be able to see it today from 3 to 5 p.m. on ESPN2.

The two-time USA Outdoor 1500-meter champion also will come back to Madison Square Garden in the famous Wannamaker Mile for the second time as a professional (the first was in 2005) at the Millrose Games next week.

After that, he told a gathering of the New York Track Writers last week, “I’ve tentatively thought about the Tyson meet, the last Visa Championship Series regular meet. We’ll see how things go the next few weeks and make a decision about Tyson and U.S. indoors [championships] after next weekend.”

Already, Webb seems on track.

Eight days ago, Webb ran a 3:56.70 at the New Balance Track & Field Center at the Armory, running the race six years to the day after he became the first American prep runner to break 4:00 for the mile indoors, going 3:59.86.

Webb was asked about his training and his goals.

“The last couple of years I’ve been focusing on trying to be a miler but coming at it by doing the longer stuff so the mile felt shorter,” said Webb, 24. “Running the 10,000 in Stanford was a turning point and was the end of that process of trying to get really, really strong. Then we were going to turn back to the mile and some shorter stuff. My goal is to run the World Championship 1500 and the Olympic 1500. To do it with any success, you have to know how to run fast. As good as it is to run 27:30 10K, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’re going to be a great 1,500-meter runner.”

Webb agreed that the U.S. and world mile records are on his radar.

“The world record [3:43.13] is one of my targets,” said Webb, who was born six months after Steve Scott set the existing U.S. mile record of 3:47.69. “I’ve run my personal best 3:48-something. Just like my senior year in high school, when people were wanting to know if I wanted to [try to] break four minutes, I said ‘Of course I am!’ I would like to break Bernard’s [Lagat] [U.S.] 1,500-meter record [3:29.30], too, and to get the world record [3:26.00]. It is a goal of mine, and I’m not the only one trying to get that record, either. The American record is more realistic, obviously. It should be an exciting year, with the World Championships as well. Worlds is my main focus, but I’m definitely going to be running the big American meets and the big European meets.”

Hall of Fame — Ryan Hall, hot off his sub-60-minute half-marathon effort Jan. 14, announced Thursday that he would make his marathon debut in London.

The move is quite bold, when you look at the field of runners already committed to the April 22 race — the world record holder Paul Tergat, Khalid Khannouchi (ranked No. 3 all time), Haile Gebrselassie (ranked No. 5 all time), Felix Limo (ranked No. 7 all time) and a host of Olympic medalists, World Championships medalists and major marathon champions. Ten guys have broken 2:08, six have broken 2:07, three have broken 2:06 and Tergat has broken 2:05.

Hall definitely was looking to get a piece of Gebrselassie this year.

“It’s going to be really hard and I’m expecting it to be more challenging than anything I’ve ever done,” the 24-year-old Hall said. “I’m just going to go out there and stick my nose in it.”

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