The Mile. A legendary distance. Roger Bannister broke the fabled 4 minute mile barrier in 1956 and runners have been pitting their wits against 1609 meters ever since. The race maybe lost it’s mojo as a competitive discipline until interest was reignited in the 80’s (god bless the 80’s) when Seb Coe (1979) and Steve Ovett switched world records 5 times over a two year period. Following tradition, Brit Steve Cram then took Coe’s record in 1985 with a time of 3:46. That stood until Noureddine Morceli of Algeria in 1993 and, finally, the great Hicham El Guerrouj in 1999 broke the record which now stands at 3:43.13. Rapido.
Fast forward 15 years and that still stands which makes it one of the longest standing world records for athletics. In recent years there has been a revival in interest with several road races emerging as mass participation events. One such recent addition to the amateur calendar is the City of London Mile organised by Run Fast. I thought I’d try and give Cram and Co(e) a run for their money. (Ironically the race was free to enter… another good reason to run it). The Bearded Runner vs The Mile.
Running 1760 yards as fast as you can is a tricky business. Do you go all out and hold on for dear life? Do you go out steady then try and ramp it up? Do you go for even 400m splits leaving a little gas in the tank for the dip and tape-break? Well this being my first mile race I wasn’t really sure what to expect so I ran with buddies from Advent Running and Run Dem Crew for guidance. James of AR and I started in the same wave (the first of ten – not quite sure how tbf!). Discussing tactics, we plumped for the latter, going for 400m intervals of 75 seconds or faster…
Basically it panned out like this. We lined up a little off the front of a group of about 40. We could see it was tight fitting us all in across the start line. Low and behold, pandemonium! The gun sounded, elbows were flying and 2 or 3 guys hit the deck meaning we had to slow / navigate / hurdle to avoid them. That completely threw me. We ended up running fairly conservatively (read safely – it was also wet). Perhaps the ignominy of also hitting the deck a deterrent. Realising there were only 400/500m left I could sense we were going to miss the sub5 by some way before deciding to try and give it as much as I could. What perhaps I should have done was run pretty much on the rivet, 9/10, pushing into the red for as long as possible then trying to sprint the last 200m. On the day I ran cautiously, also maybe because of jet lag and a niggling hip problem (#excusesexcuses), to a 5:12.36. The winner of our wave coming in at 4:29. Not a major fail, but lessons learnt! I can’t wait to run the distance again though as it was pretty exhilarating stuff and very different to the longer races I am used to.
The event was a huge success. The race results can be found here. The Elite men caned it. The top 10 all ran sub 4:10, winner Julian ‘Quads of Steel’ Matthews of NZ (above) in 4:04. The ladies were no slouches either. Alison ‘The Leopard’ Leonard took the glory in 4:40 just pipping Jemma ‘So Close’ Simpson. The day wasn’t just for keenos however. The kiddies and parents race almost got the tears flowing! Photos of the day here. Well done Run Fast for putting on a fantastic event, see you next year. :))