Chris O’Hare and Melissa Courtney defended their British One Mile Road Race titles at the Vitality Westminster Mile today (Sunday 26 May) as the event entered four-minute mile territory for the first time in its seven-year history.
O’Hare clocked 4:00 exactly to beat Jonathan Davies and Elliot Giles in a sprint finish in front of Buckingham Palace, claiming the Roger Bannister Trophy for a second year in succession, while Courtney held off European champion Laura Muir in the women's race to retain the Diane Leather Trophy.
O’Hare led a high-class field with 250m to go on the loop course around St James’s Park in central London and kicked away from Giles as he turned towards the Finish Line on Spur Road.
Davies moved into second to challenge the defending champion but O’Hare had daylight to spare as he stopped the clock at four-dead, a fitting course record coming just weeks after the 65th anniversary of Bannister's historic first ever four-minute mile.
“The win was the most important thing in my mind, but I knew I would probably have to break four to do it,” said O’Hare, who won a European indoor silver at 3000m in March this year.
“It was such a quality field I knew I had to go for it today. I feel good that I could do it and have been able to honour Sir Roger’s achievement with a bit of history of my own.
“I was a little worried with 250m to go because I could see Elliot on my shoulder, but I know what I’m capable of and I ran to my abilities.
“When you add a British championship title on anything it’s going to put something extra on any race,” added O’Hare, whose wife, Meredith, is 35 weeks pregnant.
“It’s great to defend my title but I had to check with Meredith before deciding to compete here. I’m so glad I did. This is for her and Sir Roger.”
Davies also clocked 4:00 to take second, while Elliot equalled the old course record running 4:01 in third.
There were no records in the women’s race, but an equally close finish as Courtney powered away from Muir and Sarah McDonald off the final bend to repeat her victory from 12 months ago.
The Commonwealth Games 1500m bronze medallist clocked 4:31 with McDonald given the same time in second place ahead of race favourite Muir, whose hopes of a world-best evaporated in the face of tough opposition.
“The girls ran a great race today and they were a bit faster than me in the last 100m,” said the Scot, whose sights are set on global gold at the World Championships in Doha this September.
“I am happy with where I am at this stage of the season,” added Muir. “Losing hurts a bit, of course, but these girls are fantastic athletes in their own right so it’s no disgrace. There’s a long season ahead.”
“It was a really stacked field,” agreed Courtney. “Everyone was here from Laura down, so I am delighted to have defended my title. It’s really unexpected.
“With 400m to go I felt quite easy and I was hoping someone else would push it a bit. Then we turned the last corner and I knew I had to go for it as the others were all there with me. I’m so pleased I had it at the end.
“Laura’s achievements have made us all work so much harder, and it’s great to beat her. It helped that I know the turns here, I think.
“I really enjoyed the race and the crowds. I really like this event and have been lucky to win here twice now. I hope I can come back and make it three in a row.”
O’Hare wasn’t the only miler breaking records today as earlier Clare Elms ran 5:09 to beat the previous women’s over 55s best of 5:38 in the British Masters Championships, while Angela Copson clocked 6:27 to smash the over 70s mark of 7:31.
Danny Sidbury beat JohnBoy Smith to win the men’s senior wheelchair title in the absence of defending champion David Weir, who missed the event due to illness.
Former London Marathon champion Shelly Woods returned to winning ways when she took the women’s crown after two years out of the sport following the birth of her son.