Well, it’s the difference between staying in Houston and being in Albuquerque for the first weekend of March. It’s also the difference between setting goals and breaking them.
McNiff, a 2006 Los Alamos graduate, made history Feb. 8 — both personal and state — as he broke the 4-minute mile with a 3-minute, 59.11-second time in the 1-mile invitational event at the Tyson Invitational indoor track and field meet in Fayetteville, Ark. He became the fifth New Mexican to break the barrier (Santa Fe Preparatory graduate Dan Maas is among that group) and achieved a personal goal with the time.
It sets him up for a homecoming of sorts when he heads to the Albuquerque Convention Center for the USA Indoor Track and Field Championships on March 2.
“The big goal was the 4-minute in the indoor [season], so that it would set up a fast time in the outdoors,” said McNiff, who trains with Team Green Running in Houston. “I wanted to make the [USA Indoors] because I missed it last last year. I feel that running in Albuquerque can be an advantage for me.”
Of course, it took a late push to make the dream crystallize. McNiff didn’t pay much attention to the clock until he reached the 150-meter mark and saw how close he was to his goal. He overcame a slow first 800 meters by picking up the pace on the third lap.
Then, all the training he’s done in the 400 and 800 meters, something McNiff never did while running at Los Alamos and Adams State College in Alamosa, Colo., paid off handsomely.
“The last 150 meters, I was just running as fast as I could,” McNiff said. “I didn’t want to have any regrets in this one. There have been races where I thought afterward, ‘Well, maybe if I had given a little bit more … ’ I gave it all that I had.”
McNiff already has given plenty. The 11-time Division II All-American continued his running career professionally, thanks to help from Adidas. The company sponsors him and provides running gear, meal money and money to help with his rent.
It’s barely enough to survive on, along with the part-time job he has with the Houston YMCA.
The job gives him the flexibility to focus on his running, which is a daily endeavor.
McNiff estimates he puts in about 25 hours in training for indoor and outdoor events.
Thankfully, his wife’s full-time job alleviates some of the burden, but McNiff knows that his clock is ticking on him professionally. However his ground-breaking performance gives him hope that the best is yet to come.
“I’m on the verge of possibly signing a big contract if I can drop a couple of seconds off my time to make a decent living at it,” McNiff said. “I’ll keep chasing it until it either looks like I can’t do it any more financially or physically, or until I have given the most of myself. I don’t feel like I’ve done that yet.”