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Raleigh native runs down fastest known mile

By Nolan McCaskill
nmccaskill@newsobserver.com

RALEIGH Sandy Roberts, 26, ran the fastest known mile in North Carolina history Friday.

The former N.C. State and Broughton runner finished the inaugural Raleigh Downhill Mile in 3 minutes, 51.42 seconds – 24 seconds ahead of the second-place finisher.

“It was pretty exciting,” Roberts said. “Any time where you get to run a mile that fast, it’s a huge barrier broken.”

The run was a fundraiser for those affected by last year’s Boston Marathon bombings. But Roberts’ performance epitomized why Raleigh Running Outfitters owner and race director Jim Micheels chose to put together a downhill mile fundraising event versus a regular mile or a 5K.

“Everybody wants to run fast times, and there’s no way faster than doing it downhill,” Micheels said. “It’s just something different.”

The race began on the corner of Waterford Park Lane and Six Forks Road and concluded at the bottom of the hill past Newton Road. It had a net elevation loss of 120 feet.

The Raleigh Downhill Mile was a pit stop for Roberts, who will next compete Aug. 1 at Meredith College in the Sir Walter Miler, an event constructed to push Roberts past the 4-minute mile mark. The sub-4-minute mile feat hasn’t been accomplished in Raleigh since Duke’s Steve Wheeler ran 3:59.4 on April 20, 1974.

Roberts’ fastest standard mile is 4:01.21, which he ran on an indoor track while at Georgetown to receive All-American honors in 2009.

Pat Price, Sir Walter Miler race director and a decade-long friend of Roberts, finished 14th Friday at 5:13.21.

“I saw (Sandy) take off the first quarter-mile and after that he was gone,” Price said, laughing as he recalled Roberts fading into the distance. “He broke it away. Even though yesterday was a downhill event, the fact that he ran 3:51 completely solo gives him a good deal of confidence that (a sub-four-minute mile) is certainly an attainable goal.”

Roberts has dedicated his training the past few months to breaking the barrier on a standard track.

“In the distance world it’s the pinnacle,” Roberts said. “It’s an elite and exclusive club that most runners dream about and only a few accomplish.”

Roberts will race against members of the club in the field of challengers that hope to push him past the four-minute mark, such as “the fastest kindergarten teacher in America,” Matt Elliott.

“We’re thinking with some competition, he should be right there at 3:58, 3:59,” Price said.

McCaskill: 919-829-4567

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