How a two-time Olympian and a Border Collie-Whippet mix ran a fast mile together.
Two-time Olympian Anthony Famiglietti has been on a personal quest to break four minutes for the mile since turning 40 years old in November. Earlier this week, he shared a video on YouTube claiming that he clocked a sub-four minute mile in a park with a dog. If true, the feat is fairly impressive.
Famiglietti boasts a personal best of 3:55.71 for the mile, which he ran in New York in 2006. Historically, the four-minute mile has served as a benchmark for what makes a good collegiate or professional runner. As of Feb. 14, 563 American men have broken four minutes for the mile. Famiglietti was No. 272 when he ran 3:58.23 on June 4, 2005 in Nashville. Most recently, he ran a 4:19 mile at an indoor track meet in Winston Salem, North Carolina.
Famiglietti was joined on this run by Bailey Rose, a Border Collie-Whippet mix who was rescued by her owners Jason and Katie Rose in 2016. The couple walked into Famiglietti's running store and training center while looking for a t-shirt and mentioned that they had a dog that could run really fast. They mentioned that they couldn't keep up with Bailey Rose and joked about having Famiglietti run with her to figure out how fast she can go.
On Saturday, Famiglietti and Bailey ran 3:59 at Fisher Farm in Davidson, North Carolina.
Sports Illustrated reached out to Famiglietti for further clarification on the mile run. The following interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
SI: Did you go on any training runs with Bailey Rose before you attempted the mile?
Anthony Famiglietti: No. The owners talked to me about two weeks ago, when they came into my retail store. They came in and kind of unexpectedly threw this idea out. I didn’t think anything of it, but I have been trying to break a four-minute mile and trying to do it after 40 is difficult. So training is sometimes two steps forward and one step back, so it’s taken really five years to figure out how to be able to run fast again then run fast enough long enough to get fit enough to go sub-4:00. So meeting Bailey gave me an avenue to explore unconventional training and opportunities
SI: Why do you have this obsession with breaking four minutes year after year? You were able to do it as a professional, but why can’t you let it go now?
AF: For me, breaking four minutes again won't be official until I do it on the track. That's the ultimate goal. That's what I've been working toward. I'm no stranger to unconventional training methods to get there. I have done a sub-four minute mile on the treadmill in the past. Just on a whim, I was trying to maintain speed and was training at a YMCA. The treadmill there went up to 16 miles per hour, so I figured to give that a try. I like to do funny stuff like that to max things out. I wondered if I could go a full four minutes at sub-15 mile per hour pace. You have to keep up with the treadmill or else you'll fall off. It's really hard.
You hit a certain age and people make fun of you. But at the same time, I’m trying to set a goal that has very high standards – the highest I can possibly reach. It’s a weight heavy enough that I can maybe try to lift it over my head but not so heavy that it will crush me.
SI: How was the mile course set up? Was there any downhill portions as you ran the mile?
AF: There’s no downhill at all, anyone can go out there. I spray-painted from start to finish, I measured it, it’s dead flat, no downhill. I know how these people are and I'm the same way. I'll ask race directors to measure out the course before a race. Especially now that I coach, I want things to be accurate. I wheel-measured it and video taped it. It's dead flat. There's no downhill. My warmup was measuring the course twice.
SI: How did Bailey Rose react when you began the mile?
AF: The second I put the leash it was like completely taut. She wanted to go immediately. So it made sense why [Jason and Katie] sought me out. And I did the stride thinking, “is she going to run next to me? Behind me?” But the dog full-on sprinted, as far as she could get away from me the whole time. I was dying laughing. This dog is the best dog ever. She just wants to run full-tilt non-stop. I didn't know how long she could hold it for but we wanted to find out. I suggested a sub-four minute mile. I knew I had put the work in to run a sub-four minute mile. [American record holder in the mile] Alan Webb has been coaching me to try to break four since the summer. The initial plan was for me to try and break four in a solo time trial on my birthday but I broke my toe playing on a trampoline with my son on Halloween.
SI: Did you think breaking four minutes was a possibility with Bailey Rose?
AF: I knew I had put the work in to go sub-four minutes in the mile. Really all it took was being out there in an environment where there was no pressure. You know how they have service dogs that go to nursing homes and the bond that creates? It was exactly like that [with Bailey Rose]. I recommend it for every runner. It was so awesome. I didn’t care about a thing. No anxiety, no self-doubt, no trepidation. The dog wanted to go fast, and I had to keep up to what she wanted to do. She helped me for sure in the first 400 meters with the tug. I think she helped me by about two seconds, maybe a second-and-a-half in that first 400. Usually I come through in about 60 [seconds] and we were at 57, 58 seconds because she was in full sprint for that first 400. After that, the guy on the BMX bike behind me would slow down and coast but the bike would make a sound that spooked Bailey a little bit so she wasn't running as fast after about 600 meters. She was just running what I wanted to run after that point. At times, I was basically saying, 'You can go if you want to' and she'd pick it up. At the halfway point, my friend had a drone. I told him to keep it really high so that I don't want the dog can get scared or harmed. We wanted to make sure everything was safe. The battery on the drone was draining so it was basically eye-level with me by the end. The dog hears it and jumps off to the side because she almost stopped and reset. We lost time there. I was thinking of replicating it again this weekend because I think she can definitely go faster. We had never run that course before. We had never run together before. She had never run that fast before tethered to someone. Everything was completely new.
SI: With the tangent running, do you think you added or cut any distance? Was it an actual mile with the tangent running?
AF: I measured it as tight as possible. I measured it twice and got 5,280 feet the first time, which is a mile. I got 5,285 the next time. I know it’s at least a mile. Anyone can go out there. I think I was being very conservative the first time in my measurements, it’s at least a mile. She ran really well on the tangents and I was surprised.
SI: Was there a tailwind?
AF: I don't think so. It's surrounded by trees but there wasn't anything significant. We didn't measure though.
SI: Would you ever attempt this is a track? Understandably, it would be difficult to get a dog to focus on running in an oval for that long.
AF: Yeah I talked to Bailey Rose’s owners and we discussed trying to do it this weekend on a track. They’re not sure if she can do it or not. The tracks that we have nearby, the one open to the public doesn’t have a railing so there’s no real guide for her staying on course. But safety is the No. 1 concern – making sure the dog is content and doing what she wants to do. But we’d have to do a test run to give that a try and make sure the conditions are safe. The dog is very intelligent. I bet she’d be able to do it and we could give it a go. I really think this is the best training tool ever. It’s such a confidence booster, and it’s going to help boost me toward my goals moving forward.