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Ketchikan’s Isaac Updike breaks 4 minutes in the mile to join an elite group of runners

  • Author: Beth Bragg
  • Updated: July 19
  • Published July 18

Ketchikan runner Isaac Updike didn’t make the Olympic track team, but that hasn’t slowed him down.

Updike on Sunday became the second Alaskan to break the four-minute barrier in the mile.

He ran a time of 3 minutes, 58.26 seconds to win the mile run at an American Track League meet in Mission Viejo, California.

According to reporter Jonathan Gault, Updike and second-place finisher Liam Meirow, who clocked 3:59.40, became the 591st and 592nd American runners to record a sub-4:00 mile, one of the most famous barriers in all of sports.

Updike, 29, joins Kodiak’s Trevor Dunbar as the only Alaskans on the list. Dunbar ran at least three sub-4:00 miles, with his personal-best 3:55.54 coming in June 2017.

Dunbar’s dad, Marcus -- a longtime coach and Alaska track historian -- came close in the 1990s with a 4:00.58, which is believed to be the third-fastest mile in history by an Alaskan.

“Great news about Isaac,” Marcus Dunbar said by text. “He has really stuck with it a long time and continued to improve. More power to him.”

Updike ran NAIA track in college at Eastern Oregon, where he became a steeplechaser. He stayed with track after graduation and most recently has been based in New York. In April, he recorded the season’s fastest steeplechase time in the world -- 8:17.74 -- although that effort now ranks as the 21st fastest of the season. It’s the second-fastest time this season by an American.

Prior to that race, Updike lost his individual sponsorship with Hoka One One and went into the Olympic Trials as an unsponsored athlete.

There, he won his semifinal heat with the fastest time of the meet and was among the leaders in the finals going into the final 200 meters. He lost momentum on the final water jump and finished fifth, two spots and less than three seconds away from a trip to Tokyo. The top three runners earned Olympic berths.

Two days later, Updike landed a sponsorship with Nike.

Sunday’s race, which aired on ESPN2, was called the Mustache Mile and was sponsored by pro runner Craig Engels, known for his mustache and mullet as well as his running. Engels, who served as a pacer for the race, put up prizes for any runners who broke the four-minute mile for the first time as well as for those with mustaches.

Updike entered the race with a personal-best 4:02. He sported a mustache for the occasion, and according to ESPN2′s coverage, his reward was his weight in beer.