13 Feb

Miles Better

One mile roadsign

The recent announcement by the London Marathon that they are launching a new mile event in the capital this summer really pricked my interest. The Westminster Mile will take place in May and offers the masses a rare opportunity to race over the classic distance. Granted, the biennial Sport Relief Mile gives runners all over the UK a chance to run 1.609k in a mass participation atmosphere.

But the events are essentially charitable fun-runs, enjoyable but untimed and non-competitive. The Westminster Mile offers a genuine chance for runners to measure themselves over one mile, a distance with a deep history in the UK.

Apart from a handful of events in the UK - most notably the well-organised seasonal events in Edinburgh, London and Cardiff by Self Transcendance - there are very few opportunities to actually race over one mile for the ordinary runner. The launch of the Westminster Mile, excites me both as a runner and a fan of the sport.

Although slightly too young to have enjoyed the middle-distance rivalry of Seb Coe and Steve Ovett in their pomp, I well recollect the rise of Steve Cram and his memorable tussles with Coe at Olympics, European Championships and the iconic Bislet Dream Mile.

It engendered a life-long interest in the mile distance and its rich history including the exploits of Bannister, Chataway and later Coe and Ovett. By the way, if ever you have a spare hour, do look up some of the 1980s documentary material on Coe and Ovett on YouTube - it is spine-tingingly good.

The mile is a distance that resonates with most people. It is the perfect marriage of speed and endurance. People know it as a fair distance, but also one that can be attacked and ran in its entirety - even by those less fit.

Although I have been running for 10 years I have only run the mile once, which on reflection seems preposterous. But I am sure I am far from alone.

If - as runners - we are going to spend hours and hours each week, running and training, shouldn't we at least test ourselves on more regular basis at this iconic distance? I certainly will be this year.