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By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2023 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved

(15-Nov) — After a terrific year where he won the British indoor and
outdoor 1500-meter titles, earned a silver medal in the same discipline
at the European Athletics Indoor Championships, and broke 3:50 at the
famed Wanamaker Mile at the Millrose Games, Scotsman Neil Gourley has
just one more big goal on his plate for 2023: defend his title at the
Kalakaua Merrie Mile in Honolulu on Saturday, December 9.  That’s going
to be a tall order for the friendly Scotsman who will have to beat
reigning world road mile champion and world record holder Hobbs Kessler
and North American mile record holder Yared Nuguse among others.

“Having our defending champion race against the world record holder in
the road mile and the American record holder for the mile on the track
is a dream come true for our race,” said Jim Barahal, president of the
Honolulu Marathon Association, the founders and organizers of the event
which is held the day before the Honolulu Marathon.  “Even better, these
men have a good chance of lowering the World Athletics record of 3:56.13
on the streets of Waikiki.  Our course record is 3:53.3 by Edward
Cheserek of Kenya, so we know it’s fast.  We are ready with photo timing
and a new World Athletics certification for our course.”

Gourley, 28, who lives and trains in Flagstaff, Ariz., under coach
Stephen Haas, showed his mastery of tactics at last year’s race where
the elite men had to overcome a 29-second head start given to the elite
women.  The race has a unique chase format where the elite men chase the
elite women and the $10,000 prize money purse is paid based on the
overall order of finish, men and women combined.

Last year at the turnaround point on Kalakaua Avenue about 900 meters
into the race, the men had made up about half the deficit. As Gourley
and the other men approached the finish they knew they were going to
swallow up the lead women and get into the prize money positions.

“It felt weird passing a whole different field, but this event is just
really fun,” said Gourley, who clocked 3:56.1. and, as the first athlete
to cross the finish line, got the $4,000 first prize.

For this year’s race Gourley, who represents Under Armour, said he might
be a little short of fitness because he got a late start on the base
phase of his training after a long track season.  But he’s keen to race,
he said.

“I’m thrilled to be coming back to Honolulu for the Merrie Mile this
year,” said Gourley.  “I loved the whole experience in 2022 and was
really impressed by how friendly and welcoming everyone was. The
unbeatable sunshine helped too!”

Kessler, 20, who stormed to the World Athletics road mile title last
month in Riga in a new world record of 3:56.13, finished third to
Gourley last year in 3:57.0.  The adidas-sponsored athlete ran four road
miles in 2023 and won three of them, and he would love to win in
Honolulu.  He wouldn’t mind taking a swing at breaking his own world
record, and the Honolulu Marathon Association has put up a $10,000 bonus
pool in case the world record is broken by either the first man or first
woman (the pool would be split 50/50 if two records are broken).

“I’m really excited to return to Hawaii for the road mile,” said
Kessler, who lives and trains in Ann Arbor, Mich.  “It’s one of the most
fun events on the circuit.  It’s now also world record-eligible which
adds to the fun and helps to further the road mile as an event.”

Nuguse, 24, the reigning USA 1500m champion and fourth-fastest miler of
all time with a 3:43.97 personal best, will be running the Kalakaua
Merrie Mile for the first time.  Interestingly, the former Notre Dame
star, who lives and trains in Boulder, Colo., with the On Athletics Club
under coach Dathan Ritzenhein, has never run a road mile.

“We’re very excited to bring the On Athletic Club to the Merrie Mile this year,” said
Ritzenhein who also coaches two other men in this year’s race, Geordie
Beamish of New Zealand (mile PB of 3:51.22) and Maria Garcia Romo of
Spain (3:47.69).  “We’ve talked about it for the last few years and it
gives some of the team an exciting but fun way to test their fall
training. Yared is coming off of his 3:43 American record and Mario off
his Spanish record. But both of them better watch out for Geordie
because his kick always makes for an exciting finish!”

The field has even more depth, including Matthew Centrowitz (3:49.26
PB), the 2016 Olympic 1500m champion; Mason Ferlic (3:58.05), a 2021
Olympian in the steeplechase; Morgan Beadlescomb (3:52.03), the recently
crowned USATF 5-K road running champion; and Vince Ciattei (3:54.07),
the 2023 USATF road mile champion. The full elite field can be see here:


For Barahal, who introduced this event in 2016, having such a strong
elite field is just the icing on the cake.  He’s just as excited about
the mass race which will precede the elite section.

“I love the elite race, but the People’s Mile is just as important,”
said Barahal.  “We’re expecting about 3,000 runners, many dressed in
costumes and many families will run together then stay to cheer on the
elites.  It’s a very special event.”

The 51st Honolulu Marathon and the companion Start to Park 10-K will
follow the Kalakaua Merrie Mile on Sunday.  Barahal expects about 25,000
athletes to compete across all three events.

PHOTO: Neil Gourley defeating Sam Prakel and Hobbs Kessler in the 2022
Kalakaua Merrie Mile (photo by Jane Monti for Race Results Weekly)


By News Team