Organisers of the Bupa Westminster Mile have announced that they are planning the world’s biggest timed road mile of 2014 to officially mark the 60th anniversary of Roger Bannister’s legendary first sub-four minute mile.
With 30 races over the iconic distance on Saturday 24 May, the Bupa Westminster Mile will accept entries from 5,500 runners. The programme includes one-mile races for children, families and adults and features the British Athletics One-Mile Road Championships for age groups, seniors and wheelchair athletes. The runners will start on The Mall and finish in front of Buckingham Palace.
Sir Roger Bannister will be patron of the event and the winner of the Senior Men’s Championships will be awarded the newly commissioned Sir Roger Bannister trophy. Diane Leather (now Diane Charles), the first woman to run a sub-five-minute mile, has given her name to the new trophy for the winner of the Senior Women’s Championships.
David Weir, six time Paralympic champion, will compete in the Senior Wheelchair Championships and has set himself the monumental target of becoming the first athlete to clock a sub-three-minute mile. “It’s a huge challenge but I think, given the right conditions and with the support of the organisers, a sub-three-minute mile is possible,” said Weir. “My PB for the mile on the track is 3:16 so I need a big improvement on that. But racing on the open road rather than having to contend with the tight bends of the track will be a big help. I did 3:09 on this course last year.”
Weir discussed his record attempt with Sir Roger and Diane at the official launch of the 2014 Bupa Westminster Mile at the track on Paddington Recreation Ground where Bannister trained for his world-record run with friends and pacemakers Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway. The track has recently been fully refurbished, funded in part by a grant from the London Marathon Charitable Trust. “I wish I’d had a track like this to run on,” said Sir Roger. “The mile has a wonderful symmetry as a race, neither too short nor too long, and I’m looking forward very much to being involved with this event. It’s wonderful to see the enthusiasm of so many for the mile distance.”
Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile at the Iffley Road track in Oxford on 6 May 1954. Just over three weeks later, without the benefit of pace-makers, Diane Leather ran the first sub-five-minute mile in the Midlands Championships at the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, clocking 4:59.6. Remarkably she had won the 800m just 45 minutes earlier, setting a new British record in the process. At that time, it was classified as a world best rather than a world record as the only women’s middle distances recognised by the IAAF were the 800m and 880 yards.
“It’s marvellous to see so many opportunities for women and girls in athletics now,” said Diane. “When I competed in the 800m at the 1960 Olympic Games, it was the longest distance for women and the first women’s 800m since the 1928 Games.”
Entries for the 2014 Bupa Westminster Mile are now open on the event website. Runners can enter as individuals or as a family. The entry fee is £8.00 for entrants aged 18 and over (£7.00 for Westminster residents) and £6.00 for nine to 17-year-olds (£5.00 for Westminster residents). Children aged under nine are free. The closing date for entries is 6 May 2014 – the anniversary of Bannister’s legendary run – or when 5,500 entries are received, whichever is earlier.