By David Monti, @d9monti
(c) 2024 Race Results Weekly, all rights reserved, used with permission. 

NEW YORK (09-Feb) — As good as world 1500m champion Josh Kerr is at performing under pressure, he’s even better at resisting it.

After winning the world title last summer in Budapest, the 26-year-old Scotsman skipped the Wanda Diamond League Final in Eugene, much to the chagrin of Diamond League and World Athletics officials.  Instead, he closed his season the weekend before with a victory at the rainy New Balance Fifth Avenue Mile here.  He just didn’t see the point in extending his season by another week when he was already feeling tired.

“It’s been a lot every day,” Kerr told reporters last September.  “Obviously, very new to me to win a major (title).  So, it’s been a lot of media every day and it’s been, like, mentally draining and tiring.  You know, I committed to this race and I really wanted to do it, and I’m just mentally very tired.”

Josh Kerr is the World Champion, photo by Kevin Morris

Throughout the fall and winter, Kerr has been asked whether he would run in the World Athletics Indoor Championships in Glasgow next month, a rare opportunity for a Scotsman to compete in a global championship on home soil.  Kerr’s compatriot Laura Muir has already embraced the chance to run for gold at the beautiful Emirates Arena, but Kerr remains undecided.  He said here today that after running the two miles at the Millrose Games on Sunday, where he is targeting Mo Farah’s world best of 8:03.40, he’ll finally make his decision on Glasgow with his Brooks Beasts Track Club coach Danny Mackey.

“I think that decision will be made after this weekend,” he told Race Results Weekly in an interview at a midtown hotel.  “So, people will probably know after this weekend what I’m going to do.  You know, look, I’m just looking to compete at a high level.  I would love more than anything to run World Indoors, but it has to make sense.  My body can’t fight me on it.”

Kerr, who first ran at Millrose while he was a student-athlete at the University of New Mexico in 2018, likes the idea of opening his 2024 Olympic campaign with an over-distance race.  After running a 1:01:51 (downhill) half-marathon in San Diego last December, Kerr came to New York from the high altitude of Albuquerque, where he had been training with the Beasts.  A two-mile feels right for him at this stage of the year, instead of the meet’s signature Wanamaker Mile, where Kerr has finished second three times.  A year ago at Millrose, he ran the 3000m and won in a meeting record 7:33.47, the third-fastest by a European for the 2023 season.  He saw that as an important result for setting him up for his successful outdoor season.

“I spend the majority of the fall and the winter doing higher distance, higher mileage, and things like that,” Kerr told reporters at a press conference here today.  “Starting all the way down at the mile seems like a little bit too much of a jump.  But I always like to come and compete here at Millrose.  I ran the mile probably four times, three or four times, and haven’t quite got the win yet there.  But we stepped it up to 3-K last year, and I was able to get a win.  So I was like, we can replicate something pretty similar, and that means we can have a similar set-up for the year.”

Josh Kerr takes the 3000m! The Millrose Games
at The Armory Track
New York, NY
2023-02-11, photo by Kevin Morris

Meeting director Ray Flynn –who also happens to be Kerr’s agent– has two pacemakers, Hazem Miawad and A.J. Ernst, set to lead Kerr through 1600m at 4:01 and 2000m in 5:02.  Kerr will be facing strong rivals –like Ethiopia’s Samuel Firewu; Americans Grant Fisher, Cole Hocker and Joe Klecker; New Zealander Geordie Beamish; and Australian Morgan McDonald– so he’ll likely run those final laps with plenty of company.  The American bests of 8:07.07 (outdoors) and 8:07.41 (indoors) could also be broken.

Kerr would not say whether any particular result would lead him to decide on whether to compete in Glasgow, or not.  But he made it clear that it was not something that could be forced.

“With a racing schedule, it’s very fluid,” Kerr explained.  “It kind of comes with how the training’s going.  You can’t really fight how the training’s going too much.  For me, I signed up for some races that are going to be very competitive.  That’s what keeps me excited.”  He added: “I just enjoy competing against great fields.”

In addition, Kerr reminded reporters that racing indoors can take a toll, both on the body (due to the tight turns), but also by usurping valuable build-up time for outdoors where his second Olympic Games await.

Josh Kerr with Media, Budapest, August 2023, photo by Stuart Weir

“There might have been some situations in practice if we did push; maybe that would ruin some further training down the line,” Kerr said.  “You know, the 200-meter indoor track isn’t always the best-suited to some of us, and I need to make sure I’m being careful with that.  If I’m not running World Indoors, I probably won’t be competing again indoors.”

Kerr’s gold medal has provided a big boost to his kit sponsor, Brooks.  Athletes wearing Nike and Adidas shoes have dominated the middle-distance medals at the big championships, and Kerr is Brooks’s first world champion.  For Sunday’s meet here, the Seattle-based company has provided Kerr with a new uniform and special spikes.

“It’s been a fantastic process with them,” Kerr said.  “I was their first Olympic medalist; I was their first world champion.  So, they’ve had a fantastic time over the last couple of months creating my new uniform.”  He added: “The spike team put together a design spike for me and, again, that’s debuting here on Sunday as well.  We’ve had a blast being able to push the boundaries and raise the bar for the Brooks Beasts.”

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The 116th Millrose Games will be televised by NBC free-to-air at 1:00 p.m. EST.  The broadcast will also be carried by NBC’s streaming platform, Peacock, simultaneously.