So, last weekend, February 2-4, 2024, this writer was in Boston for the New Balance Indoor Grand Prix, while also covering remotely the 2024 US Olympic Trials Marathon with our RunBlogRun team.
On Saturday, February 3, Sandra Nel Kurman, Global Athletics comms manager, held a series of mixed zone interviews with many of the key duels for Sunday evening. I like it when Sandra and Michelle Sammets manage the press events, as they get out timely and we have access to the athletes the media teams (there were 7 from around the world), that we need.
We enjoyed the 60m hurdle interviews, with Grant Holloway, Trey Cunningham and Daniel Roberts. Elle St. Pierre and Jake Wightman were also another fun interview.
We waited for Noah Lyles, Jake Wightman and Gabby Thomas sign autographs for close to 150 young fans. This was post Junior Boys Mile, where a sub 4 mile was achieved.
This was Noah’s third time at the track that day. The first was for workout, the second was for the the special fan event, and the third would be for media.
The care and feeding of these media events are something to note. Sandra Nel Kurman, in such situations has to manage media expectations with the ups and downs of a day at the track. The changing needs of athletes who have to workout and manage their brand sponsor’s expectations. At times, the comms manager will have to use persuasion, charm and sometimes, outright cajoling to interest an elite athlete, especially an athlete who is jet lagged and exhausted into speaking with media for fifteen minutes that becomes thirty minutes.
The thing is, you never see that with Noah. Lyles gets it better than most. Noah likes, most days, the interview process and develops strong relationships with many of the media. His pre event interview was relaxed, but his post event interview was animated and excited.
The key message from the pre event interview was this: “ I want to see where my fitness is. If I run fast, that is good, if I do not, then, I will have to figure that out.” Always honest for Noah Lyles, one suspects some trepidation from the three time Budapest gold medalist, now going for four medals (if the Olympic coaches include Noah in the 4x400m relay).
I believe that while Noah Lyles knew he was fit and could feel the benefits of his focused lifting and increases in muscle (gaining ten pounds of muscle).
The secret to his success in the final at the New Balance Indoor GP was Noah’s ability to accelerate. Remember how Noah always looks behind early on in the 100 meters, and how he caught the field in Budapest?
Well, the 60 meters is a much shorter distance, actually a completely different race.
While Noah Lyles might never be the best starter, he has improved his starts.
In the final in Boston, Ackeem Blake of Jamaica got out fast, and Fred Kerley, in only his first 60m final, was learning.
At ten meters, Noah Lyles was seventh, at twenty meters, he was sixth, and at forty meters, Noah was accelerating into fourth. By fifty meters, Noah Lyles was flying.
Just prior to the finish, Noah Lyles, acclerating as Ackeem Blake was slowing down, went by the Jamaican, winning 6.44 to 6.45.
A huge PB for Lyles!
After the race, Noah Lyles spoke to a dozen media outlets. I was the very last.
Noah told us that he could feel his acceleration in the 60 meters and could not wait to see how his 100 meters is affected.
Noah told us that he would not compete in Millrose. His coach, Lance Brauman, reiterated, “we do not race three weekends in a row, we learned from 2023.”
In the final comments, Noah Lyles noted, “ We will be in Albuquerque, and then, Glasgow.”
To say that Noah Lyles was excited after his 60 meter victory in Boston was an understatement.
The Journey to Paris has already begun for Noah Lyles. Actually it began right after his vacation after Budapest last fall.