The elimination mile was a worldwide hit at the inaugural Nitro Athletics series and naturally caught the attention of IAAF president Sebastian Coe who would have loved to race the modified event in his prime.
Few athletes mastered the event in the three-night series that saw last place in the field of six eliminated after each of the first three laps, leaving three to sprint for victory.
Crowds on each night stood and cheered with ecstasy as runners jockeyed for position over the four laps – an occasion that would have been exponentially greater if it had of been Coe, Ovett and Cram in the field.
“No, but it felt like it on occasions,” Coe said when asked if he had competed in anything like it before.
“But it would have been good, I would have enjoyed doing that because it’s a clever event and you need to… it struck me the ones who were actually coordinating their effort and judging what was going on around them.”
Promoting the use of tactics and traditional racing without much attention on the clock was one of the main principles of Nitro Athletics, raw elements of track and field that were brought right to the fore by modified events such as the elimination mile.
However, the two-time Olympic 1,500m champion and setter of eight individual outdoor world records would have attacked the race very differently to those who tested it out at Lakeside Stadium.
“What surprised me is that they weren’t really looking at the screen, I wouldn’t have had my eyes off that screen and you would have controlled it from the front,” Coe explained.
“Then you’d have just watched what was happening behind you.
“So, there were people that were sprinting that weren’t needing to sprint because the person that was immediately behind them was a long way off.
“To actually utilise the screen and control what was going on behind would actually be a big part of it.”
Coe was a world-beater across all middle-distance events with his personal best in the 800m lasting as the world record for nearly two decades and he is still the only man to win successive Olympic 1,500m titles.
Three-time Olympian and six-time Australian champion Jeffrey Riseley was bewildered with how difficult the elimination mile was after he finished second in the first one of the Nitro series.
Prior to the series there had been a lot of speculation on how the race would be run, few predicted it would be as aggressive with sometimes two or three attacks made per lap.
“It is hard because in essence you’re doing a fartlek session, you’re doing four laps but you’re splitting it into a big burst of anaerobic work and then trying to get back the aerobic stability to do exactly the same thing in another 200m, it’s tough,” Coe said.
“It’s a good training session, yes it would be (special to watch six world-class milers).
“We tried it actually in the European team championships back in 2010 in Lisbon but they did it over 5,000m and it didn’t have quite the same impact because it just broke up the race too much.
“But over a mile you can actually do it to quite spectacular effect.”