Adam Clarke and Racheal Bamford were crowned British Athletics road mile champions at the third Bupa Westminster Mile in central London today as David Weir broke the wheelchair world record for the third year in a row.
The event marked 30 years since Steve Cram set the British track mile record of 3:46.32 at the Deam Mile in Oslo in July 1985, and Cram himself was on hand to present the Roger Bannister trophy to Clarke, who was just outside the four-minute barrier today in 4:05.
The Aldershot, Farnham & District athlete outsprinted Jonny Hay and Ben Coldrey, plus race favourite James Brewer, to win an eight-man finish in front of Buckingham Palace.
“It was a really good run with the likes of Johnny Hay and James Brewer involved,” said the 24-year-old after winning his first ever mile race.
“I know they are fast, so I had to make a move early on and just after halfway I went for it. But I needed some money in the bank for the last 100m as they have strong kicks.”
Bamford also won a close race, coming from behind to take the women’s title in the final stretch from Charlene Thomas and Hannah England. England took this title two years ago and it looked like this would be a straight battle between her and Thomas before Bamford surged forward late on.
“I enjoyed the race,” said the Leeds City steeplechaser, who was sixth here last year. “I’m quite strong at the moment because my steeplechase training has been going well.
“I love the Westminster Mile, that’s why I came back, and it was a great race to win.”
Bamford received the Diane Leather trophy from Cram who had just watched Weir smash his own world wheelchair record, beating his arch rival Marcel Hug in a dog-fight finish.
The six-times London Marathon winner flew around the course, which skirts St James’s Park in the heart of Westminster, to cross the line on Spur Road in 3:03, just outside the sub-three minute barrier he’s been targeting for three years.
“Nearly, so nearly,” said Weir when he came to a stop at the base of Victoria Memorial at the top of The Mall.
“Marcel went off like a rocket but I took the rest of the race on. I’m gutted because I’ve been doing sub-three in training all week. It’s just the bends on this course that make it so hard.
“It’s great to get the world record again, but it’s a shame not to get sub-three. I’m getting closer and closer.”
Former Paralympic rower Martyna Snopek retained the women’s wheelchair crown in 4:45, while Kieran Wood from Cambridge took the junior men’s under 20 race in 4:20, just ahead of Scott Halstead. Holly Parker of Enfield Harriers won the junior women’s under 20 race from Niamh Bridson Hubbard in 5:03.
The six-hour festival also included junior wheelchair events for men and women, plus six British Athletics age-group races for boys and girls aged from 11 to 17, all of them presented with a medal bearing an image of Cram crossing the finish line in 1985.
The BBC presenter had earlier turned back the clock 30 years when he won a special race featuring more than 80 former British Olympians in 5:40.
Cram set off at the head of a large field containing not just track and field athletes, but former rowers, fencers and cyclists, all sent on their way by 98-year-old Bill Lucas, Britain’s oldest Olympian and a veteran of the 1948 Games in London when he ran 5000m.
“I loved it,” said Cram, who beat Seoul 1988 middle distance runner Shireen Bailey to the line. “It was amazing seeing loads of people I haven’t seen for years.
“I hope it can be even better next year – the lads, especially the male runners, can do better. There were far more of the old girls here. It’s great to see so many different sports represented though, it was great fun.”
One of those sports was hockey, represented in style by members of the famous 1988 men’s gold-medal winning team, Rob Clift and Richard Leman who, together with 1996 hockey play
ers Simon Hazlitt and Soma Singh, flicked a ball between them around the whole course.
“It’s a great atmosphere and it’s good to see some guys I haven’t seen for a while,” said Clift. “I do triathlon every now again and my boys both play hockey now so I’m still involved with a lot of sport.”
“It was really good fun knocking a ball between us the whole way,” added Hazlitt. “I’m pleased it was only a mile though, I’m knackered!”
Former 400m runner Jos Hoyte-Smith and marathon runner Dave Long were responsible for bringing the old Olympians together.
“It was fantastic, but it was also hard, it was much further than my old event, the 400m!” said Hoyte-Smith. “But the whole point was to get people together again and it went great.”
“To get the response we did was marvellous,” said Long. “Hopefully it’s the inaugural one, not the only one. Doing a mile feels ok. In the past I would have had another 25.2 to go.”
The last Olympian home was Alan Newton, an 85-year-old former cyclist who competed at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. Newton finished under an impromptu guard of honour made of hockey sticks and foam fencing swords as the rest of the Olympian field chaperoned him to the line.
Among the day’s 33 races were numerous non-championship events for club athletes, joggers, and family members of all sizes, shapes and ages.
Twenty-two-year-old Mariusz Iwaniviec from Poland had the honour of being the first runner home as he cruised across the line shortly before 09:50 this morning.
The former international mountain runner and steeplechaser moved to Wellingborough in Northants just over two years ago and entered the race to see if he could break five minutes.
After biding his time for the first half mile, Iwaniviec broke clear to clock 4:31, his arms raised as he strode beneath the gantry.
“It feels to great to be first,” said Iwaniviec. “I read about the event in the newspaper and thought I would give it a go.
“I only had six weeks to train and thought I might get in the top 10, so to be first is fantastic. Now I will start training again properly.”
Elsie Butler from Charnwood Athletics Club in Leicestershire was the first woman home. The 23-year-old 1500m specialist described the event as “great fun”.
“It was great to be here and good to see Steve Cram,” she said. “I love this event. I did it last year and will do it every year now, especially when the weather’s like this.”
Among the crowds of finishers who followed Iwaniviec and Butler was Tess Daly, the BBC’s Strictly Come Dancing presenter, who said she “loved every minute” of her race.
“That has to be one of the most iconic miles in Britain with that backdrop behind us,” said Daly, a Bupa Feel Great Britain Ambassador.
“It was great to be involved in it. We couldn’t have asked for better weather, or crowds, or organisation. There was so much support all the way round.”
Mums, dads, kids and grandparents were among the waves of family racers to wash through the finish zone, some jogging together hand-in-hand, some coming one-by-one to meet each other in front of Buckingham Palace. Some with pushchairs, some in football tops, some dressed as their favourite super-heroes. All of them with smiles on their faces.
Three-and-a-half-year-old Khyllah Hamilton ran with her mum Ingrid; the pair were one of the first mum-and-daughter couples to complete the course. “She loves running,” said Ingrid, who’s also entered the Bupa London 10,000 tomorrow. “She’s taking after mummy. I’m sure we’ll be back.”
Dom and Ethan Fiore were the first father-and-son team home, finishing just 15 seconds apart in impressive times of 5:20 and 5:35respectively.
“It looks like my days of being number one in our household are numbered,” joked dad Dom, a Cambridge Harrier, his speedy 10-year-old son hardly out of breath beside him. “We both did it last year, but he’s improved by about 45 seconds since then. We were aiming to be the first dad and son to finish, so I hope we were.”
Among the other well-known faces was former Olympic heptathlon champion Denise Lewis, who was official starter for a race marking Sport England’s This Girl Can campaign, led home by Amanda Heslegrave from Barking Road Runners club in East London.
“I usually run half marathons and marathons so I fancied something different,” she said. “I’ve been here all morning with some friends and it’s just fantastic, it’s great how this event works.
“There are fast people and slow people, it’s good for everybody. It’s superb and really well organised. I could never envisage how it would work with so many people running a mile, but I’ll definitely be back.”
It was a sentiment shared by thousands of other runners on a day when Steve Cram and 80 Olympians came together to celebrate their part in Britain’s sporting history.
1. Adam Clarke 4:05
2. Jonny Hay 4:06
3. Ben Coldrey 4:07
1. Racheal Bamford 4:39
2. Charlene Thomas 4:40
3. Hannah England 4:41
1. David Weir 3:03
2. Marcel Hug (SUI) 3:03
3. John Smith 3:41
1. Martyna Snopek 4:45
2. Claire Connon 7:28
1. Kieran Wood 4:20
2. Scott Halstead 4:20
3. James McCarthy 4:21
1. Holly Parker 5:03
2. Niamh Bridson Hubbard 5:03
3. Laura Gent 5:06
The Bupa Westminster Mile is staged in partnership with Westminster City Council as part of Westminster’s commitment to encourage more people to take up sport and be more physically active.