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London’s sun shines on the first Bupa Westminster Mile

Jordan Wildrianne from Team Derby Runners enjoyed the honour of being the first ever finisher in the inaugural Bupa Westminster Mile as he cruised across the line in front of a sun-bathed Buckingham Palace in central London today watched by the event’s ambassadors, London 2012 champions Mo Farah and Richard Whitehead.

The 24-year-old travelled down on Saturday from his home in the Midlands to take part in Westminster Council’s Olympic legacy event, and shortly after 10am on Sunday morning he was basking in the glow of an historic achievement just a short jog from the site of the London Marathon finish line.

Wildrianne won the first of 22 waves of One Mile races around the famous roads that skirt the permieter of St James’s Park, followed in quick-fire fashion by another nine mass-entry races for adults, three for families and children, and 12 British Athletics championship events for the country’s best athletes in all age groups from under-11s to seniors.

Wildrianne caught the mood of the day as he beamed in the warm morning sunshine after stopping the clock in four minutes 22.1 seconds.

“I only came down to run because it sounded like a nice flat course, and I thought it would be a good way to start the track season,” he said. “It’s really nice to be able to say that I’m the first winner. I hope this event keeps going for years.

“I love the history of it. It’s great being able to finish in front of the Palace like they did in the Olympics and at the London Marathon every year. I’ll be back for sure.”

His sentiments were echoed by many of the other three thousand finishers who relished playing their part on a hectic day of racing that ended with Charlie Grice and Hannah England crowned as the first ever British Athletics senior road mile champions, and David Weir winning the inaugural wheelchair title.

Whitehead and Farah played their parts too, starting races and handing out prizes to the championships medallists.

“It’s so important to have events like this where people can come out and have fun and enjoy it,” said Farah.

The London 2012 Olympic 5000m and 10,000m champion is aiming to win a fifth consecutive Bupa London 10,000 title on The Mall on Monday morning when he kicks off his 2013 summer season.

“I started my career on these roads in the London Mini Marathon and it’s great to be back to be part of this new event,” he said. “It’s such a good step to get the kids into this. They can’t do a 10k, but they can start with this distance and then come through.”

“This is such a great legacy for London,” agreed Whitehead, the Paralympic 200m champion who was beaten in a sprint finish in the second adult race by a delighted Richard Keller.

“It’s fantastic to see all these people out running and to feel the atmosphere building at the start. There are so many different people of all shapes and sizes out today. It really is for everyone.

“That’s why running is so inclusive. It’s not about ability, or disability – none of that matters. That’s why events like this are so important.”

Westminster Councillor Steve Summers, who was instrumental in putting the event together, also experienced the race for himself.

“It was great to be running down such an iconic road, seeing all the people out,” he said. “It’s a great course, a great atmosphere and so many people really inspired to get involved in running.

“It’s legacy in action. It’s amazing to think that just a year ago there were all these Olympic athletes running down the same course. It’s brilliant.”

Westminster Mayor, Councillor Sarah Richardson, explained why the local authority wanted to create its own festival of mile running.

“So many people saw the Olympics and were inspired by it, and they know this stretch of road from the London Marathon,” she said. “For people who can’t do the full 26 miles of a marathon, this is an amazing event because everyone can do it.

“We’re really keen on fitness and family activity in the borough so this was a perfect Olympic legacy for us. We really hope this becomes a regular fixture for Westminster and for London.”

So do Vivienne Yankah and Gill Rose, two local women who were delighted to finish in under 10 minutes along with three of their closest friends.

“We came to have fun but it’s really as a legacy of the Olympics that we’re here,” said Yankah. “We loved the Olympics. We were just inspired by how well everyone did and how well organised it was. It made us proud to be British.

“When we heard about this we loved the idea of running on the same roads as the Olympic marathons and finishing here in front of this fabulous building.”

“This setting is just great,” agreed Lourdes Tavares from Pimlico, looking up at the gleaming gold of the Victoria Monument just beyond the finish line. “You need something that visually inspires you to get to the end.

“I watched the Olympics last year on TV and thought that’s a great idea. Next year I’m going to bring my nephew as well.”

Many families crossed the finish line together, whooping and high-fiving as they did so. Others, like 14-year-old Michael Edmonds, sped ahead then waited for family members to join them.

“That’s was fun, it’s so cool to see all these people here,” said Edmonds, from Dulwich in south London. “I’ve done quite a lot of running before, for South London Harriers, but I thought it would be fun to do this with my older brother.”

It was a similar story for Jasvir Modaher, a 57-year-old veteran of 19 London Marathons who was running as a “warm-up” for tomorrow’s London 10,000.

“I have my grandchildren running today, so I wanted to show them that I could do it too,” he said. “It is absolutely brilliant to have this event here. The atmosphere is fantastic and it’s so well organised. I’ve been along this route so many times and enjoyed every minute.”

As for 33-year-old Julianna O’Boyle, who ran while pushing her two-year-old daughter Elisabeth’s push-chair, taking part was all about the future. “I live nearby so I just wanted to come and support Westminster. And I wanted Elisabeth to experience the atmosphere. She’ll run it in future years, for sure.”

Susie Hooker from Reading was just one of many runners who brightened up an already colourful day with her choice of costume. The 35-year-old member of the Sweatshop Running Community dressed as cartoon character Penelope Pitstop, complete with bright pink bonnet, goggles, tights, skirt and gloves.

“I’ve had a bit of a hamstring injury so the outfit was my excuse to run a bit slower,” she laughed. “It’s good fun to dress up.

“I’ve done the London Marathon a few times but I wanted to do this because it’s such a nice idea to have a mile event. The mile is achieveable for most people; everyone can do it without feeling daunted.”

Even Councillor Summers, who took part in his first running event, managed a mile: “You just need to look at people’s faces,” he said. “Even people watching were asking how they can get involved.

“We had kids on scooter, parents with babies in slings, grandparents with grandchildren. That’s what it’s all about. And each year now it’s just going to get bigger and bigger.”