Race Report: Bannister Miles


This Monday I set off for Iffley Road in Oxford, eager to join the action at the annual Bannister Miles track meet. This year held special significance, marking 70 years since Roger Bannister’s historic sub-4-minute mile. Running sub-4 for the mile is still considered a remarkable achievement and it’s incredible to think that Bannister did it on a cinder track with leather spikes all the way back in 1954.

There were multiple races on the day (including a never-before-seen one-mile steeplechase) with the culmination being the men’s and women’s elite races in the evening. I’d heard a rumour that British middle-distance legend Steve Cram and mile world record holder Hicham El Guerrouj were going to be in attendance so like an excited 12-year-old I made sure to bring my felt tip pen so I could get my spikes signed. Alas, I never saw them.

I arrived at the stadium a couple of hours before the race to soak up the atmosphere (and to literally get soaked). It was a pretty slick affair with call rooms, wavelights and pacers for each race. There was even a YouTube livestream with commentary to add to the excitement. I was seeded in the E-race, which to be honest I was a little bit unhappy about, but it did mean I had a non-zero chance of winning! Our race was due to be paced at 65s laps, which equates to about 4:22 for the mile. Training had been going really well recently (mainly due to the dozens of misspent hours running around an industrial estate in High Brooms with partner-in-crime Liam White) so I went into the race with a lot of confidence that I could run a fair bit quicker than this. I had a firm plan in my mind to get off hard and settle in behind the pacer then push on at 800m and close well.

The gun went off and there was a bit of a fight to get behind the pacer. I managed to slot into third position, behind a lad from Abingdon and the pacer. Perfect. Nothing much happened for the first two laps as everyone was seemingly content to sit behind the pacer. We went through the first 809m in 2:09 at which point the pacer dropped out. My original plan was to make a move here, but I dithered a bit and decided to sit in a little longer. The Abingdon lad ahead of me was starting to slow and any thoughts of a super quick time were starting to dwindle. To my delight at about 1000m, a lad from Northampton came around me and upped the pace. I let him pass me then latched onto the back of him. Shortly after the guy from Abingdon dropped and it was a two-man race coming into the bell lap. I could tell the Northampton lad was hurting and seeing him give a few nervous glances over his shoulder gave me the confidence that he probably didn’t have too much left. At 200m to go I kicked hard for the line. I immediately got a gap but continued to empty the tank right the way to the line to take the victory in 4:16. 

Crossing the line I was absolutely buzzing! It might only be the men’s E race on a drizzly day in Oxford but I don’t get many chances to win anything so I’m taking it . After the race, I went about devouring the biggest burger I could find and embarked on my doomed mission to find Crammy and El G. Overall it was a great event and one that I’d thoroughly recommend to any other Harriers who fancy a bash at the shorter stuff!

Here’s a link to a video of the race if you want to take a look: