This is a feature by Cathal Dennehy on Noah Lyles and the newest paradigm change that the 3 time World Outdoor gold medalist and WIC gold (relay) and silver (60m) has experienced.

Noah Lyles, The Clock Doesn’t Lie,

by Cathal Dennehy

The clock doesn’t lie, and neither do his gym numbers. As the focus turns to the outdoor season, both currently paint a very bright picture for Noah Lyles.

Last year, he ran a personal best of 6.51 for 60m indoors, and six months later, he lowered his 100m personal best to 9.83 to win the world title in Budapest.

This year, he has run 6.43 for 60m, a reduction of 0.08. If that first part of his race is all that’s improved, it suggests Lyles will be a 9.75 man outdoors, though the 26-year-old hasn’t just strengthened his weaknesses. He’s also improved his strengths.

Noah Lyles and Christian Coleman, after the race of the weekend, photo by Kevin Morris, 2024 USATF Indoor Championships

“We’re attacking the gym a lot more, getting stronger, because biomechanically you can hit the ground in the right spot, but if you don’t have enough power, you’re not going to go anywhere,” says his coach, Lance Brauman. “We need to increase his power output, and that’s what we’re doing right now, and it’s working.”

How much has Lyles improved in the gym?

“Significantly,” says Brauman. “He’s finally really excited about lifting. He’d always do it, but he was never excited about it. Now he’s excited about it, and that changes every aspect.”

Lyles did not get what he wanted in Glasgow, making do with silver in the 60m, clocking 6.44 behind Christian Coleman’s 6.41. But he does not reflect on it with disappointment, aware of the significance of that medal, that time, and what it signals for outdoors.

“I’m OK with it,” he says. “There’s definitely been a lot of medals, even gold, that I haven’t kept, but I’m keeping this one. I feel like every time I look at that medal, I’ll be like, ‘That was the moment that everything changed in my career and went to a whole ‘nother level.’”

With a 6.43 to win the US title and a 6.44 in Glasgow, what 100m time does Lyles believe will convert?

“Probably like 9.70,” he says. “Maybe faster.”

Coach Lance Brauman and Noah Lyles, adidas Atlanta City Games, photo by Kevin Morris

As former world 200m champion and NBC track announcer Ato Boldon put it, Lyles learning to start races in such fashion has made him “a problem” for the rest of the world. After Lyles edged Coleman to the US title last month, Boldon captured the conundrum for his rivals: “If you’re out front, you better be on point because he’s coming.”

Lyles is coming, though he’s no longer the underdog he was, particularly over 100m. Now, with less than five months until Paris, he’s the man to beat.

To his immense credit, he lined up at the World Indoors on the way there, knowing he may well come off second best against Coleman’s warp speed over 60m. Many world champions stayed away from Glasgow, and while Lyles’ participation was first and foremost about his own goals, his own journey, he’s long demonstrated a responsibility to his sport—to not only talk the talk but walk the walk, showing up regularly and giving fans a show.

GLASGOW, UK – MAR 1: Image of Noah LYLES, Christian COLEMAN, Ackeem BLAKE, final of the 60m at the World Athletics Indoor Championships on MAR 1, 2024 in GLASGOW, UK (Photo by Dan Vernon for World Athletics).

On his way to the arena last weekend, he listened to local radio and heard the championships being discussed. According to Lyles, one of the hosts said it was “like something my grandma would watch all day.”

That bothered him.

“I was like, ‘OK, wow, we are now relating track and field to old grandmas? That’s not OK.”

Lyles was the world U20 champion in 2016, and his first senior year in 2017 coincided with the retirement of a certain Jamaican. As a student of his sport, he recognized the bolt-sized hole left behind and has done his best to fill it for years.

GLASGOW, UK – MAR 1: Image of Noah LYLES, Christian COLEMAN, Ackeem BLAKE, final of the 60m at the World Athletics Indoor Championships on MAR 1, 2024 in GLASGOW, UK (Photo by Dan Vernon for World Athletics).

It’s working. Yes, Lyles is not the household name Bolt was, and, for various reasons, he’s still the second-best-known US sprinter behind Sha’Carri Richardson. But by pushing his story at every turn, engaging with the media with refreshing honesty, and performing for fans regularly and without the robotic poker face other sprinters often carry, he’s growing the sport.

How will he keep that momentum going?

“Anything I can do that’s within respectable bounds—I teeter the line a bit and try to push the envelope, but I can’t go as far as to lose my contract,” he laughs.

Noah Lyles, styling, photo by Kevin Morris, 2024 NB Indoor GP

His performance and personality have made him among the sport’s top earners. His agency, Global Athletics & Marketing, states that his contract extension through 2029 is the richest in the sport since Bolt’s retirement. Non-disclosure agreements prevent Lyles from releasing specific numbers, but what can he say?

Noah Lyles, Christian Coleman, 60 meters,s the event of the USATF Indoor (sprints), photo by Kevin Morris

“I can buy everything at the grocery store,” he smiles. “For me, it proves that if you have the personality and the ability to put people in seats, and what I’m doing is working, then it brings in more money, and hopefully, the next generation sees that and tries to do the same thing – in their own way.”

Since Bolt left, the sport has been in constant flux, trying to future-proof itself and connect with a younger audience, often with mixed results. Does Lyles believe things are improving?

“In some ways it is, in some ways it isn’t,” he says. “Everyone knows it wants to change, but there are a lot of different directions on which way to go. I want to support the people I believe will take it in the direction I think it should go.” Lyles says he does a “decent amount of consulting” with the relevant stakeholders.

Over the past year, he’s also demonstrated that to make waves beyond the sport’s bubble, controversy isn’t a bad thing. It might even be the best thing.

In Budapest last year, Lyles aimed at how US sports teams call themselves world champions.

Noah Lyles and Coach Lance Braumann,
USATF New York Grand Prix
Continental Tour Gold
presented by Global Athletics & Marketing Inc., photo by Kevin Morris

“World champion of what?” he asked. “The United States? Don’t get me wrong. I sometimes love the US, but that ain’t the world.”

It drew the ire of many NBA stars but allowed Lyles to burrow into the psyche of US sports fans in a way his performances didn’t. The significant upside is that many more will pay attention to him this summer.

In Glasgow, he also wasn’t afraid to stir the pot.

Lyles had spoken about his ambition to win four Olympic golds; the most unlikely of those has long been the 4x400m. He hadn’t run a competitive 400m since 2016, when he clocked 47.04 at 18, but he was controversially drafted into the US men’s 4x400m team in Glasgow ahead of the final.

Fred Kerley, who was not in Glasgow, was quick to vent his frustration, accusing USATF of treating the athletes like “puppets” and showing “favoritism.”

In his Gucci/Adidas collaboration, Noah Lyles enters his place of business. Photo by Kevin Morris.

Lyles, after running an impressive split of 45.68 to help the USA win silver, shot back after the race. “He could be here, but he ain’t,” he said of Kerley. “If he’s mad at that, come on out here.”

Conflict. Drama. Tension. The kind of stuff a sport thrives on, the kind of stuff it needs.

Lyles looks set to deliver plenty of it on the way to Paris. But does he think he did enough to earn a spot on the 4x400m?

“I wanted to give my best leg to these guys because I’m the new guy, and I haven’t shown any 4x4s as a professional,” he said. So I wanted to ensure they knew they could trust me and that I could show everybody I was fit, so when we get to Paris, and I’m in shape and sharp enough, I believe I can be on that 4×4.”

Noah Lyles, adidas Atlanta City Games
Street Meet, photo by Kevin Morris

If Lyles did not get to run in Glasgow, he was planning to race an open 400m at the Florida Relays or the Tom Jones Invitational early in the outdoor season, but his relay split has convinced him he’s done enough to “leave that as it is.”

In truth, he spent little time preparing specifically for the World Indoors, his eyes on the biggest prize.

“We’re still doing 250s and 300s in training,” says Brauman. “I’m very pleased with where he’s at, he’s very pleased, and the numbers are showing it. It’s not like we came here dialed in for 60 meters. We’re working on it and trying to do things, but we won’t sacrifice training and the rest of the year. We have focused more than we had for the past 8-10 days, but we’re just continuing to do what we do.”

Noah Lyles, GLASGOW, UK – MAR 1: 60m Men at the World Athletics Indoor Championships on MAR 1, 2024 in GLASGOW, UK (Photo by Dan Vernon for World Athletics).

This is to say that it improves Lyles’ power output and the first part of his race.

“The whole goal was to work on those first 40 meters to get him close to people at 60,” says Brauman. “Because when that happens, special things are coming.”

And with the indoor campaign disappearing into the rear-view mirror and outdoors just up ahead, does Lyles think he’s the man to beat over 100m in Paris?

“A hundred percent,” he says. “I wasn’t this close a year or three years ago. I’m the second fastest in the world at the 60m – that’s dangerous.”

“This is My House!” Noah Lyles enters the TRACK at New Balance, photo by Kevin Morris, 2024 NB Indoor GP

Need more for your Noah Lyles fix? 

Try these: 

Noah Lyles, The 2023 RunBlogRun Interview

RunBlogRun presents Noah Lyles – adidas Press Conference, 2023 World Athletics Championships – Budapest