The club achieved its new high-water mark in our all-time track and field accomplishment list when Tom LeGan roared to an unprecedented 4:32.80 mile on Sept. 12, 2017 at age 51. His stratospheric 94.06% age grading performance claimed the club’s top-ranked performance in history, and was the equivalent of an open 3:56.7 mile.
After missing months of training in the early part of the year, Tom cleaned up well and had finally started to show signs of getting fit, but was it too late? It appeared that the track season was totally lost, but Tom started feeling solid right as the Los Gatos summer All-Comers meets were drawing to a close, and he dusted off the rust with a 4:45 mile against virtually no competition in July.
In the last scheduled Los Gatos All-Comers meet of the season, ill fortune struck. The meet was hastily canceled at the last minute due to an inopportunely timed high school band photo shoot. Undaunted, Tom’s sons, Carlo and Rosino, had both made the journey up to Los Gatos to watch their pops take his time down and since there was no actual race, they pushed Tom to just go for it and rip it in a time-trial. Though he invariably eased off in the middle of the race due to the lack of competition, he still managed to blow out an unofficial 4:38.7 mile, and Tom sensed he had a few more seconds in him with proper competition.
We all shared in the same emotion – what a frustrating way to end the season! It had seemingly ended before Tom could even really show his stuff, and we were looking at a disappointing off-season of “what ifs.” But all was not lost, as Coach Carl and the club’s resident masters track guru Matt Bogdanowicz, did a little research and realized that the Tamalpa Running Club had its last all-comers meet on September 12th!
So off we went to the underrated track at Terra Linda High School on a balmy, slightly breezy evening. Leaving nothing to chance, we recruited two club members as pacers, Ben Harper and Ryan Smith, with the goal of helping Tom break 4:30- a highly audacious goal given his fitness level, only five seconds off of Nolan Shaheed’s existing world record of 4:25.04. Going back into the crates of yore, Tom also sported a 4:05 (mile) and 1:48.98 (800-meter) PR from his college days, plus ran a formidable 9:07 for 3200 meters in high school, so he clearly has an excellent pedigree.
With the race underway, pacers Ryan and Ben smoothly clicked through the first lap in 67 seconds as Tom hung doggedly on their heels. When they reached the 800 in 2:13 and Tom still looked smooth, everyone in attendance realized that this was in fact not a laughing matter, and you could sense the crowd’s electricity at that point. By the time Ben and Ryan had towed Tom through the third lap in 3:20.46, pandemonium had ensued as everyone, friends and rivals, had gotten to their feet and started yelling for Tom at the top of their lungs. Tom did fall off rather abruptly in the last lap (a 72.36) but this massive effort showed that, with more strength, he could have held or exceeded that pace.
This performance took everything he had, but he was really not at 100% given the months of missed training. Between that and the fact that he is now training with the young guys in Berkeley for Monday’s speedy track workouts, it’s a safe bet that the record is in the cross hairs for next spring…if we can keep him healthy, always a big if for those seniors runners. But…with that said, watch out for Tom LeGan, the hype is going to be building before we know it.
Whatever happens going forward, this was an international-class mark for the ages – and Masters Track (out of North Carolina) did in fact put together a write-up of Tom’s race. Kudos remains in order for his legendary performance.
Written by Coach Carl Rose.