Anthony Famiglietti is an elite runner, two-time Olympian, 6-time US Champion, and holds the World Record for the fastest treadmill mile. At 41, he is continuously chasing new challenges and personal bests. We had the pleasure of talking to Anthony about his unique sub-4 minute mile chase and his recent accomplishment of running a 3:58.04 treadmill mile - with a mask on!
From being a two-time Olympian to holding a world record, you are quite the accomplished runner. Can you tell us a little more about your running experience and how it has evolved?
I started as a not-so-amazing middle and high school runner and ascended quickly to a NY State Champion in track through drive and persistence. I took whatever small opportunities that were given to me and worked incredibly hard to leverage them and prove my ability so I could ascend to new heights and even more opportunities. I got a partial scholarship to a small, Division I university, and then transferred to a bigger university when I started winning championships. I carried that drive and persistence all the way to the NCAA championships. I was offered a very small opportunity with sponsorship post collegiately, and then through the same discipline, turned the opportunity into national championship titles and Olympic teams.
I'm no stranger to finding a way, any way, to get to my goals no matter the environment. For example, a permanent injury sidelined me from the sport for a very long time. My hard-headed persistence eventually helped me find a workaround and fantastic equipment with a sponsor (Skechers) that helped get me to 100% and to go this fast again. So when Covid-19 hit I had the tools to find positive alternatives to keep running that I'd already been working on. Those tools included the treadmill during the lockdown.
You have chased a lot of sub-4 miles under unique circumstances. What inspired you to take on these new challenges? Is there one you enjoyed the most or are the proudest of?
I've never been afraid to try something new and try something completely outside of the box. When you are sidelined with injury, especially into your late 30s, running fast again is important. So in my case, I didn't just want to complete a race or compete, I wanted to go as fast as I had before. The fastest event I've ever run is the mile (3:55) and 1500 meters (3:35) on the track, and its the perfect little challenge that doesn’t require an insane amount of running (mileage) that may have re-aggravated my injury or caused more injury. It's an event that can translate to success in other events if you master it.
So I pursued the mile with the same discipline and persistence as I had in the past. I was chasing a sub-4 minute mile at 40 years old. Only 3 people in world history have achieved that. It's a very lofty goal and along the way, many things went wrong. Some of these I've been vocal about others I have not. For instance, I broke my toe just a few weeks before my first major mile attempt. Once it healed I had missed the window for some major races. I tried to peak for a sub-4 last chance race in Fall, but I got sick with a sinus infection. In the past, that wouldn't have sounded like much, but now with COVID-19 we all think like elite runners when assessing whether or not to race sick.
That same Fall my father's health began deteriorating, and sadly he passed away this March. Around the same time, my mother had been diagnosed with a fast advancing Alzheimer's like illness. By Christmas, her memory had shown signs of being significantly affected. So my goals of traveling the US to run were relegated to the treadmill out of necessity. If I was going to travel, it was going to be to see my family, not to race. I think many of us have a new appreciation for that now in a post COVID world. I traveled only to locations that fit multiple criteria related to business/promotion and work/family.
Recently, you ran a sub-4 mile while wearing a mask (video below). What motivated you to run your race this way? What was this experience like?
I raced a sub-4 mile on a treadmill on my 41st Birthday for fun, as I had scheduling/travel difficulties as stated above. It went amazingly well and somehow the video of my sub-4 mile treadmill birthday party run went viral. After months of lockdown and no race options, it made sense for me to try something new on the treadmill. I was curious about whether or not people could workout or run on a treadmill at the gym safely. There was so much conflicting information. So I just decided to see for myself.
The best part about the run is that my sub-4 for my birthday was run on the same treadmill and at the same speed as my sub-4 mile with a masked attempt. The only change was wearing better Skechers GoRun Speed Elite racing shoes with a carbon fiber plate. So it was a way of finding out for myself and for others what the truth was in a controlled environment. I matched my best time while wearing a mask so the run speaks for itself. I describe more precisely at the end of the video what it felt like.
Do you have any advice for runners who are struggling with wearing a mask at this time?
I'd say the best way to wear a mask when you run is to have a pull-up neck gaiter. It's easy to pull on and off as needed and will not restrict air as badly as a paper mask that might have movement and cover up the mouth as you breathe. It's important to note that cotton will hold moisture when you expire air and may make you feel like you need to cough more or just feel plain wet. So I prefer a special technical moisture-wicking fabric that is perfect for the runs. My wife's apparel company Reckless Running makes these and I love running in them.
Do you have any advice for runners who are trying to stay motivated during this time?
Find new ways to run that work. Don't worry about norms or typical standards. Pave the way for new standards and methods to stay fit. You don't have to wait for a special running authority to say, “yes this is a new running fad you should try.” Just lace up and make due. Be creative. Stay consistent. Consistency is where the rewards and health benefits lie.
You are also the founder of Reckless Running. Can you tell us more about how this started and what “reckless running” means to you?
I helped originally found Reckless Running apparel as a way to inspire runners to break outside the norm and to run on their own terms. To run with reckless abandon means you're free to be you and run how most suits you. The premise is to abandon all of the modern conventions and unnecessary weights that limit us or hold us back and simply run with pure reckless abandon. We hope to inspire you to abandon all the things that hold you back from your best self and find new levels of being. I'd have to say that I've lived the philosophy well up to this point, and I hope others can be inspired to do the same. Be persistent, stay driven in these tough times, and if someone says to you wearing a mask is silly or will hinder your run, you can abandon any doubts or fears and find what works for you -- and you can point them to my video as proof of concept.
Follow Anthony’s running adventures:
Twitter - @recklessrunning
Instagram - @recklessrunning
YouTube - The Reckless Running Channel