Farah to inspire Britain's future generations over the mile
2 May 2014, 9:56 a.m.
With a predicted 5,500 runners involved in 30 one-mile races on the roads around St James’s Park in central London, the Bupa Westminster Mile event will be the world’s greatest one-day festival of mile racing and a fitting tribute to Bannister’s historic achievement at Oxford’s Iffley Road track on 6 May 1954.
The programme, organised by the London Marathon in partnership with Westminster City Council and The Royal Parks, includes mile races for children, families and adults, and features the British Athletics One-Mile Road Championships for runners in a range of age groups, including seniors, juniors and wheelchair athletes.
Britain’s double Olympic and world champion Mo Farah will officially start the senior men’s and women’s races on The Mall, and runners of all ages and abilities will race around the park’s perimeter via Horse Guards Road and Birdcage Walk to finish on Spur Road in front of Buckingham Palace. Farah will then run alongside Britain’s future stars in the Boys’ U11 and U13 London Borough Challenge races at 14:05.
Bannister himself will be patron of the event and the winner of the senior men’s race will be awarded the newly commissioned Sir Roger Bannister trophy. The senior women will compete for the Diane Leather trophy, named after the first woman to run a sub-five-minute mile, also 60 years ago. Leather, now Diane Charles, ran 4:59.6 at Birmingham’s Alexander Stadium just three weeks after Bannister’s famous feat.
Six-time London Marathon champion David Weir aims to mark the 60th anniversary of Sir Roger Bannister’s legendary sub-four-minute mile by becoming the first wheelchair racer in history to break the three-minute barrier for the iconic distance at the Bupa Westminster Mile on Saturday 24 May.
Weir, who won four gold medals at the London 2012 Paralympic Games, will be looking to knock nine seconds from his winning time 12 months ago when he cruised to victory at the inaugural championships in 3 minutes 8.3 seconds.
“It’s a huge challenge but I think, given the right conditions, 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.”
Britain’s most experienced international miler, Andrew Baddeley, will be the man to beat in the senior men’s contest, while the senior women’s mile race sees a formidable line-up that includes World Championship 1500m medallist Lisa Dobriskey, who was runner-up last year; former world junior 1500m champion Steph Twell, fourth in 2013; former UK 1500m champion Charlene Thomas, who was fifth last year; and Julia Bleasdale, an Olympic finalist at 5000m and 10,000m in 2012.
Baddeley, an Olympic and World Championship finalist at 1500m, is a former winner of the Dream Mile at the Bislett Games in Oslo, where so many world records have been broken in the past. He faces Chris Warburton, who was third in the inaugural Bupa Westminster Mile in 2013, and James Shane who was fifth – two of the seven athletes from last year’s top 10 who are competing again in 2014.
The Bupa Westminster Mile is only the first part of a packed weekend of road running in the capital. The programme continues on Sunday morning (25 May) with the seventh edition of the Bupa London 10,000 – when Farah will go for his sixth consecutive victory.
Farah set the current British record when he ran 27:44 on the 10km course in 2010, and he won last year’s race at a canter in 29:13. That proved to be a comfortable curtain-raiser to a successful summer season in which the Londoner added the world 5000m and 10,000m titles to the brace of Olympic gold medals he clinched so memorably at London 2012.
This year he is likely to face stiffer opposition, not least from his old friend and training partner Chris Thompson who won a 10,000m silver medal behind Farah at the 2010 European Championships.
Both athletes made their marathon debuts at the Virgin Money London Marathon last month when Farah broke the English record, finishing eighth in 2:08:21, and Thompson clocked an impressive 2:11:19 in 11th place.
The Bupa Westminster Mile races begin at 09:30 on Saturday 24 May and continue throughout the day until the final event, the British Athletics Men’s and Women’s U20 One-Mile Road Championships at 15:15 and 15:20 respectively.
Weir’s attempt to make wheelchair racing history in the mile is scheduled for 13:20.
Farah and co will set off in the Bupa London 10,000 at 10:00 on Sunday 25 May. The runners start on The Mall, run east towards the City of London – past many of the capital’s most iconic sights – and return along the Embankment to finish on Spur Road in front of Buckingham Palace.