News & Media

2014 Bupa Westminster Mile Race Report

Chris O’Hare and Alison Leonard were crowned British Athletics road mile champions at the second Bupa Westminster Mile in central London today as David Weir set a wheelchair world record 60 years after Sir Roger Bannister first broke the four-minute barrier.

O’Hare came close to matching Sir Roger’s historic achievement when he won the senior men’s title in four minutes six seconds, just a second ahead of Chris Warburton, while Leonard held off a spirited surge by veteran racer Helen Clitheroe to win the women’s crown in 4:35.

“I’m happy to come away with a win,” said O’Hare, who raised his right arm in triumph as he crossed the finish line in front of Buckingham Palace, well clear of the large pack he’d led into the last turn off Birdcage Walk.

“I didn’t feel all that good today so I made a big move with 300m to go and had to work hard to keep the inside lane,” said the 23-year-old from Edinburgh Athletics Club.

“I wasn’t too confident as it’s only my second road mile. I ran one in Boston recently so it’s nice to get a win on home soil.”

The US-based O’Hare was handed the Sir Roger Bannister trophy by the man himself, an honoured guest at the event along with Diane Charles, who as Diane Leather was the first woman to break the five-minute mile barrier, also in 1954.

Charles presented the newly-named Diane Leather trophy to an exhausted Leonard, who battled to hold off Clitheroe on the line after making her move to win the women’s senior race with a quarter of the race to go.

“My plan was just to sit and kick,” said the 24-year-old Blackburn athlete, normally an 800m runner.

“My coach said I could win here but I didn’t believe him. I did the race last year and really enjoyed it, but I only decided on Monday to enter this year.

“It’s such a great event. It’s really different and the crowd’s really good. To come away with a British title is amazing.”

Weir’s performance was fairly amazing too as the six-times London Marathon winner raced solo around the course, which skirts St James’s Park, to finish in 3:07, two seconds quicker than his winning time last year.

Hampered by the route’s tight bends, Weir fell just short of the three-minute barrier he had targeted to mark the festival’s status as the official 60th anniversary event of Bannister’s first sub-four-minute mile.

“I gave it my best shot and I wasn’t too far off,” said the six-times Paralympic champion after beating Japan’s Kota Hokinoue by 22 seconds.

“I knew I was in good shape because I’ve done tons and tons of speed work, but it was just a bit tough here on the turns. If it was a straight mile I would have gone under [three minutes] easily.”

Weir duly retained the British Athletics men’s wheelchair road mile title, while former Paralympic rower Martyna Snopek won the women’s wheelchair crown in 4:45 ahead of Susan Cook.

Shaun Wyllie from Bracknell AC took the junior men’s under 20 race in 4:15, two seconds ahead of Brighton’s Robbie Ftizgibbon, while Rebecca Murray from Bedford and County won the junior women’s under 20 race from Alex Clay in 4:57.

The six-hour festival also included junior wheelchair events for men and women, plus six British Athletics age group races for boys and girls aged from 11 to 17, started by Britain’s double world and Olympic champion Mo Farah, who also presented medals to all the young winners.

“It’s been great to see so many youngsters running a mile and enjoying themselves here today,” said Farah. “Finishing a race in front of Buckingham Palace is inspiring for kids of any age. I’d love to race here in the future.”

Among the 31 races, organised by the London Marathon in partnership with Westminster City Council, there were numerous non-championship events for club athletes, joggers, and family members of all sizes, shapes and ages.

Twenty-year-old Lloyd Kempson from Peterborough had the honour of being the first of the 5,869 registered runners to cross the line as he cruised home shortly before 9:35 this morning.

The Nene Valley Harrier was running his first ever mile and pulled away from veteran Nick Shasha down Birdcage Walk before raising his arms as he strode beneath the gantry on Spur Road.

“It’s awesome to win here today,” said Kempson after stopping the clock at 4:31. “I knew I had a shot at winning as I had a look at last year’s results, but I thought I’d go quicker.

“I’m a 1500m runner and this is the first time I’ve run a mile. I loved it. I’ll definitely be back.

“The Bupa Westminster Mile races are awesome and I’m so happy to have won on the 60th anniversary of Sir Roger Bannister’s first sub-four-minute mile.”

Abbey McGhee, of Victoria Park City of Glasgow Athletics Club, was the first woman home. The 20-year-old from Teddington crossed the line in 5:07.

Among the finishers who followed Kempson and McGhee under the gantry were two of Sir Roger Bannister’s granddaughters, Chloe Townsend and Vicky Hamblin, who completed one of the seven family races.

“It’s been such a great day, to see Grandpa chatting to Mo Farah and signing books,” said Hamblin. “Quite a few members of the family have travelled to celebrate this day with him so it’s been a really lovely family affair.”

The 26-year-old Hamblin finished in just over seven minutes while Townsend, 17, crossed the line a little quicker in under seven. “Everyone expects four-minute miling to run in the family but as you can see, that’s not the case,” said Townsend.

“It proves how much dedication and training it took for Grandpa to break the four-minute barrier,” added Hamblin.

British javelin record holder Steve Backley was one familiar face among the hundreds of yellow t-shirted finishers from the Sweatshop Running Community. The tall 45-year-old completed the course in close to six minutes.

“I jog when I can but I’m not really a runner,” joked Backley, who had a hip replacement operation six years ago. “Things like this just help to leverage the training.

“The thing is, everyone around me looked like they were jogging while I felt as if I was going like Mo Farah.”

Backley caught the mood of the day when he added: “This is a fantastic event. It’s so inclusive, not just the way it’s organised and marketed, but because of the distance.

“Everyone should be able to jog a mile. And when they do one, then they think, ‘Maybe I can go further next time.’ It’s the perfect way to start.”

“This is all part of a movement I started,” added Bannister. “The mile has historic links with this country and we want to see it retained.

“This Westminster Mile is in that spirit and everyone is having a wonderful time. The whole day has been a great success.”

Brief results:

Senior Men
  • Chris O’Hare 4:06
  • Chris Warburton 4:07
  • Andrew Heyes 4:07
Senior Women
  • Alison Leonard 4:35
  • Helen Clitheroe 4:35
  • Charlene Thomas 4:37
Wheelchair Men
  • David Weir 3:07
  • Kota Hokinoue (JPN) 3:29
  • Moatez Jomni 3:51
Wheelchair Women
  • Martyna Snopek 4:54
  • Susan Cook 5:20
  • Yasmin Somers 9:10
Junior Men
  • Shaun Wyllie 4:15
  • Robbie Fitzgibbon 4:17
  • Kieran Wood 4:17
Junior Women
  • Rebecca Murray 4:57
  • Alex Clay 5:01
  • Sabrina Sinha 5:02

Full results can be found here.