All ages and abilities take on a mile with a smile!
The Vitality Westminster Mile returned to its traditional home in London’s St James’s Park today, as thousands of participants of all ages and abilities ran a mile with a smile.
After an enforced two-year break from central London due to the pandemic, there was a real sense of happiness about finally being back together again at this family-friendly, fun event.
In nearby Green Park, the free Vitality Wellness Festival attracted participants, their families and friends – and curious passers-by – throughout the day, offering them a chance to rest, recuperate and enjoy activities ranging from have-a-go sessions with England Netball and England Cricket to the Vitality Tumbleator – a giant treadmill that promises plenty of thrills and occasional spills for anyone brave enough to test their pace on it!
Series of mile events
In the first mile of the day starting on The Mall – the adult wave for those looking for a fast time – Simon Byrne of Swindon Harriers was first to cross the Finish Line by Buckingham Palace in an impressive 4:20. “I’ve never done this race before, so I didn’t really know what to expect; I was surprised to win!” he said afterwards.
“The conditions were pretty perfect and there was a big pack of people at the front, which kept the pace high. I heard about the event from my club mates at Swindon Harriers – there are around 10 of us here. I really enjoyed it and I’ll definitely be back next year.”
The first woman over the line was Martha Wightman, the sister of Tokyo Olympian Jake Wightman and daughter of international marathon runners Geoff and Susan Wightman.
Despite her family’s pedigree, Martha seemed a bit surprised by her 5:17 winning time. She said: “I didn’t expect to be the first. But I did enjoy it – sort of!”
A junior wheelchair race also took place today, held for the first time at the Vitality Westminster Mile, which saw 15-year-old Illias Zghoundi crossing the line first in 4:07 to take the win, with Ellis Kottas, 18, the first girl home in 5:28.
Fifteen waves of fun
In total there were 15 waves, including dedicated events for organisations like parkrun, plus school and London United miles in among the popular family waves. The day culminated with a wave for Special Olympics GB – an organisation that uses sport to foster inclusion and community for people with intellectual disabilities.
In the first family wave Nils Liborg and his son Noah, nine, broke through the Finish Line together in 6:14 and 6:15 – Noah’s second mile personal best this month. Mum Ingvild and Noah’s sister Sarah joined them a few minutes later. “It’s the fourth time we’ve done the event as a family,” said Nils. “We live in Ealing but are originally from Norway and weren’t able to take part last year [when the event was held at Hatfield Park in Hertfordshire] so it’s good to be back.”
Two-year-old Eadie Appleby was among some of the younger children taking part in their first-ever mass participation event – along with mum Claire, dad Richard and big brother Hamish, who’s four.
It was the Twickenham-based family’s first chance to experience an event together due to the pandemic: “It’s the perfect family event, well organised and not too busy,” said Claire. “And we can do some sightseeing with the children afterwards – starting with the changing of the guard!”