Drake track impresses distance running star

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    Associated Press

    DES MOINES, Iowa (AP) _ One lap on Drake Stadium’s blue track had Said Aouita yearning for younger legs.

    Aouita, one of the world’s top runners in the 1980s, is making his first visit to the Drake Relays as the coach of Australia’s middle-distance runners. It has him wondering why he didn’t come when he was competing.

    “It looks a little bit old, but trust me, I know tracks. It’s really a very fast track and it looks very nice, too,” said Aouita, a two-time Olympic medalist. “You see it with all the seats and everyone is close, it seems to me like I am in Oslo or Zurich, some place like that.

    “When I heard that 15,000 to 18,000 come to watch, man, I wish I was 20 years old.”

    In his prime, Aouita dominated at distances from 800 to 10,000 meters. The Moroccan won the gold medal in the 1,500 in the 1984 Olympics and the bronze in the 5,000 in 1988. He broke the world record in the 5,000 in July of 1985 and broke the world record in the 1,500 only 27 days later.

    From July of 1985 until September of 1987, Aouita won 44 straight races at a variety of distances and was the first runner to break 13 minutes in the 5,000.

    Aouita, 44, first heard about the Drake Relays from Nawal El Moutawakel, who left Morocco to run at Iowa State and won the gold medal in the women’s 400 hurdles in the 1984 Olympics.

    “She was talking about Des Moines, about the state and the Drake Relays, I didn’t believe it,” Aouita said. “I’m like, ‘Oh yeah, OK, OK.’ Until I came here and had some workouts with my athletes. I love the track. The track is fast and I wish I could run.”

    At which point Relays director Mark Kostek interjected, “We do have an invitational master’s mile.”

    “Yeah, thank you, Mark,” Aouita said, laughing.

    “Maybe I have to talk to my manager,” he added. “I have to (ask) why you never put me in the Drake Relays.”

    This is the 50th anniversary of the first sub-4-minute mile by Britain’s Roger Bannister. Kenya’s Kip Lagat heads the field for the Drake Relays mile on Saturday and he’s expected to make a run at the meet record of 3:55.26 set by Steve Scott in 1979.

    Kostek is hoping of a pace that would produce a time of 3:52.

    “That would be very, very good,” said Aouita, who ran a 3:46 mile. “I believe it will be an interesting mile here and it will be a really good gift for the 50th anniversary.”

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