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Britain’s top middle-distance runners aim to break four-minute barrier

The cream of Britain’s male middle-distance runners will attempt to break the historic four-minute barrier at the Vitality Westminster Mile to pay their respects to the legendary Sir Roger Bannister – the first man to run under the magical mark.

Bannister - who famously broke the four-minute mile barrier in 1954 – died in March, aged 88, and the latest generation of British middle-distance stars want to commemorate his passing by emulating his landmark achievement at the Vitality Westminster Mile on Sunday 27 May.

Commonwealth Games 1500m bronze medallist Jake Wightman (Edinburgh AC) and his fellow finalists Charlie Grice (Brighton Phoenix) and Chris O’Hare (Edinburgh AC) are the leading contenders to run sub-four in a star-studded field.

The women’s race promises to be equally as entertaining with five Commonwealth Games finalists in the field including Melissa Courtney (Poole AC) who won a bronze medal in the 1500m on the Gold Coast. Up against her will be fellow 1500m finalists Sarah McDonald (Birchfield Harriers) and Jess Judd (Chelmsford AC) plus 3000m steeplechase fourth placer Rosie Clarke (Epsom & Ewell AC). 

No athlete has run under four minutes over the iconic Vitality Westminster Mile course since the event was first held in 2013, with two-time winner Nick Goolab (Belgrave Harriers) – who is returning in 2018 – going closest when he clocked 4:01 to win in 2016.

Wightman, who is currently training at altitude in Flagstaff, Arizona, said: “After a month at altitude I hope to be in the sort of shape to run under four minutes at the Vitality Westminster Mile and I think, with the passing of Sir Roger Bannister, this year it would be nice for that to happen. It will be added motivation.

“You always want to test yourself against the best and I think the quality of the field as a whole will mean a sub-four clocking is definitely possible so we need to get after it.”

Wightman, Grice and O’Hare have all run well inside four minutes on the road with Wightman’s personal best (PB) of 3:52.9, set at the New Balance 5th Avenue Mile last year, the quickest. O’Hare has a road best of 3:53 and Grice a PB of 3:57. But both Grice and O’Hare have pedigree on the Westminster Mile course with Grice winning in 2013 and O’Hare in 2014.

Grice, who was fourth - one place behind Wightman - in the Commonwealth Games 1500m final, said: “I’m really excited to race the Westminster Mile this year. I got the win there in 2013 and I remember it was a really big deal for me because it was one of the first senior races I won. 

“I am sure this year will be a great race, domestically we are very strong right now, so hopefully we can get a sub-four clocking.”

As well as the trio of the country’s leading milers, the Vitality Westminster Mile field will also include the reigning indoor and outdoor British 800m champion Elliot Giles (Birchfield Harriers).

The Vitality Westminster Mile starts on The Mall and does a lap of St James’s Park, turning right down Horse Guard’s Road and then Birdcage Walk before finishing in front of Buckingham Palace.

Wightman, who described his bronze medal at the Commonwealth Games as a ‘huge milestone in my career’, added: “It’s important for me to start the (summer) season well and the Vitality Westminster Mile seems like a great place to do it. It’s always nice opening up in the UK and I’m looking forward to soaking up what looks like a great atmosphere.”

As well as the senior races, there will be British Athletics One Mile Road Race championships in the under-13 to under-20 age groups. There will also be, for the first time this year, a Vitality Masters Mile open to runners aged 35 and over.

Sir Mo Farah will also be at the event to run with families in the Family Waves, with people getting the chance to #RunWithMo

The programme also includes family races, school races and The Olympians Mile which brings together athletes who have compete for Great Britain in any sport in an Olympic Games.

You can still enter the Vitality Westminster Mile with the closing date on Friday 18 May.

Vitality Westminster Mile Elite Fields

Elite Men's Field Elite Women's Field
Jake Wightman (Edinburgh AC) Jade Williams (Amman Valley)
Charlie Grice (Brighton Phoenix) Charlotte Taylor Green (Bristol & West)
Chris O’Hare (Edinburgh AC) Jenna Hill (Sale Harriers)
Tom Marshall (Cardiff AC) Sarah McDonald (Birchfield Harriers)
Ieuan Thomas (Cardiff AC) Rosie Clarke (Epsom & Ewell)
Steve Mitchell (Bristol West) Amy Griffiths (Aldershot & Farnham District AC)
Nick Goolab (Belgrave Harriers) Harrier Knowles-Jones (Warrington AC)
Michael Wilsmore (Bristol) Jess Judd (Chelmsford AC)
Rowan Axe (Cardiff AC) Hannah England (Oxford City)
Tom Hook (City of Norwich AC) Lily Coward (Invicta)
Shaun Wyllie (Bracknell AC) Sophie Connor (Shaftesbury Barnet)
Robbie Fitzgibbon (Brighton Phoenix) Tamara Armoush (Birchfield Harriers)
Zak Seddon (Bracknell AC) Revee Walcott-Nolan (Luton)
Phil Sesemann (Blackheath & Bromley AC) Hannah Viner (Highgate)
John Ashcroft (Liverpool Harriers) Sarah Astin (City of Norwich)
Sean Molloy (Tonbridge AC) Melissa Courtney (Poole AC)
Jack Hallas (Birchfield Harriers) Georgie Hartigan (Birchfield Harriers)
Rob Umeokafor (Brichfield Harriers) Holly Archer (Cambridge & Coleridge)
Jonathan Davies (Reading AC) Claire Tarplee (Solihull)
Jake Heyward (Cardiff AC) Beth Kidger (Brighton Phoenix)
Elliot Giles (Birchfield Harriers)  
Will Fuller (Blackheath & Bromley AC)  
Jamie Webb (Liverpool Harriers)  
Dale Clutterbuck (Newham & Essex Beagles)  
Harvey Dixon (Aldershot Farnham & District AC)  
Anthony Wightman (Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers)  
Tom Horton (Hallamshire Harriers)