When Noah and Josephus Lyles first talked about turning professional out of high school — Josephus brought it up before their junior year — the goal was, of course, to sprint on the sport’s highest international level — together.
They will do that in Monaco on Friday (2 p.m. ET, Olympic Channel and NBC Sports Gold).
The Lyles brothers will compete in the same Diamond League meet for the first time, and in the same race to boot. Though Noah has long focused on the 200m and Josephus the 400m, they will both contest the shorter distance at Stade Louis II.
“This is going to be really special,” Noah said.
“It makes me more comfortable, just knowing me and my brother are in the same race,” said Josephus, at his first Diamond League meet since 2018.
Noah, when asked the significance of the race that’s coming more than four years after they turned pro, suggested a reporter ask their mom.
“She’s probably over the moon right now,” he said.
Josephus remembered their mom, Keisha Caine Bishop, screaming in excitement upon learning last week that he earned a lane in Monaco. Noah, the reigning world 200m champion, was already in the field.
“It is definitely harder to watch,” when they’re in the same race, Bishop said, “but not because you’re worried about who’s going to win and who’s going to lose, because I don’t look at track like that.
“My nervousness more comes from I just want them both to do their best, so that we can all celebrate as a family. Because if one has a great race and the other one doesn’t have a great race, then it’s kind of hard for everybody to celebrate. You have to compartmentalize your emotions a little more.”
Bishop, an NCAA 4x400m champion at Seton Hall in the 1990s, is familiar with the balance. Even though her two sons born one year and four days apart last raced against each other in January 2017 at their first professional meet.
“The only reason I run track is because of Noah, honestly,” Josephus, who is younger, said while sitting next to Noah in 2017, days before their pro debut. “When I first started track, I quit because I didn’t like it.”
Josephus, a 400m/800m runner before giving it up, returned to the sport in eighth grade. He had planned to try out for the basketball team. Noah, originally a high jumper, was still doing track and field at the time, so Josephus went out for it, too. This time, he focused on races one lap and shorter.
“Turns out I was really good,” Josephus said. (The Lyles’ sister, Abby, ran one track race around age 6 and didn’t care for it, later finding her passion in biochemistry.)
Throughout high school, the brothers tore up tracks while attending T.C. Williams in Alexandria, Va., best known for the film “Remember the Titans.”
Bishop recalled the times one brother supported the other through adversity. Such as when Noah prayed for Josephus’ success in 2014, when Josephus was on crutches with a twisted ankle. Josephus came back that season to win the 400m at the New Balance Nationals, where Lyles took second in the 200m.
“When they race, they are more concerned about the other person than they are themselves,” Bishop said.
Or in 2016. Josephus suffered a season-ending torn right hip flexor two months before the Olympic Trials. A year before, as a high school junior, Josephus ran a 400m time that would have made the Olympic Trials final, where the top six of eight men would qualify for the Olympics.
Josephus still watched his brother race at trials, in the 200m, from the Hayward Field stands.
“He was trying to be strong,” Bishop said, “but I knew, as a mom, that it was very painful.”
Josephus excitedly detailed the experience on camera after Noah broke the national high school record and nearly pulled off the incredible, coming .09 shy of the Olympic 200m team of three men.
“Sometimes it can get a little hard. If one of us is doing well and the other one is not doing well, it can be rough,” Josephus said. “On the other hand, it can be really good because it’s a lot of support. It’s almost like an accountabili-buddy.”
The brothers achieved their goal by signing with Adidas shortly after trials.
Then in 2017, Noah strained his right hamstring and withdrew from the USATF Outdoor Championships before the 200m final. The family gathered before leaving the stadium in Sacramento.
“I said, ‘OK guys, we have to walk out of this warm-up area, and we have to do it as a team,’” Bishop said. “‘At the end of the day, the only people left will be the three of us. And it’s not just the end of today. It’s going to be the end of your careers. When all the newspapers are gone, television cameras, nobody’s writing about us, we are still a family, and that is all that matters.”
Josephus continued to battle the hip injury, yet lowered his 400m personal best in 2017 (making his Diamond League debut during Noah’s absence) and 2018. At the 2018 USATF Outdoors, Noah won the 100m and Josephus placed sixth in the 400m.
If it had been an Olympic or world championships year, both would have made the U.S. team. Instead, they looked to qualify for their first biennial world outdoor championships in 2019.
That spring, Josephus began throwing up every time he ate. He left a European swing after just one race. He saw several doctors leading into nationals, where he was eliminated in the semifinals. He got an endoscopy and learned his diaphragm was restricted, affecting his eating and breathing. It was fixed after the meet.
“A rough year,” Josephus said.
Noah won the U.S. 200m title two days after Josephus’ 400m semifinal. Noah took gold at the world championships in Doha, after which his most meaningful interaction came by phone with his brother, who was back home in the States after dealing with those chest problems.
Support flowed from both ends of the line — congratulations from an inspired Josephus and excitement from Noah, amped for the upcoming Olympic year and the prospect of a Lyles in every flat sprint and men’s relay in Tokyo.
“I never try to forget that I can be in that same position of being injured, and he could be the one doing well,” Noah said last fall. “So I want to always be able to bring good support to him.”
Noah and Josephus live together in a house near their training base in Clermont, Fla.
The pandemic relegated them to grass fields when tracks were closed for nearly two months. When they returned to more normal training, their coach, Lance Brauman, started putting Josephus in groups with 100m and 200m sprinters, including his brother, regularly for the first time.
Josephus, who beat Noah and world 110m hurdles champion Grant Holloway for a Virginia high school indoor 55m title in 2016, raced a pair of 200m in July. He lowered a five-year-old personal best from 20.74 to 20.41 and then 20.24, which helped book the spot in Monaco.
“When I run 19 [seconds], that’ll be that next level,” said Josephus, while noting the 400m remains his primary event. “I still have a little bit ways to go. Hopefully, this weekend will be a game-changer.”
Here they are, the week after what would have been their first Olympics this summer. Noah and Josephus Lyles are in the same race at the most anticipated track meet of the year.
The Olympic cycle has been bittersweet, said Bishop, reminded of what she stressed to her sons through the ups and downs.
“Life comes in seasons, and your season might not come when you wanted it to come,” she said. “The lesson might not be the lesson you thought it would be, but your season will come.”
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