On 24 May 2014, several thousand people (some of them perhaps inspired by watching the Virgin London Marathon) will run ‘the most iconic mile in the world’, starting on the Mall, looping round St James Park and finishing in front of Buckingham Palace. It’s not too late to enter the Bupa Westminster Mile – even if your New Year’s resolution to get fit hasn’t actually got you out of the door yet, you still have time to start training!
This year’s event will be extra special for two reasons:
Firstly six-time London marathon winner and Paralympic gold medallist David Weir will attempt to be the first person ever to complete a mile in under three minutes.
Secondly this month marks two important anniversaries in the history of mile running. On 6 May 1954, Roger Bannister broke the ‘four minute mile’ at Iffley running track – though he actually did most of his training in Westminster at Paddington Recreation Ground. The Recreation Ground is now home to the Serpentine Running Club, who claim to be the largest running club in Britain. They welcome new members and are a friendly bunch.
A few weeks later on 29 May, Diane Leather became the first woman to run a sub five minute mile, though this was not recognised as an official world record at the time. In fact, women weren’t considered capable of running 1500 metres in the Olympics until 1972 and Ms Leather’s achievement (she knocked an astonishing 15 seconds off her record the following year) were barely noticed by the press at the time. As to why women weren’t considered capable of running further than 400m until the 1960s, read the full story here.
If you haven’t run further than the nearest bus-stop since you left school and are thinking about the BUPA Westminster Mile, there are plenty of beginner’s running programmes to get you started. The most famous is the Couch to 5K which claims to get people who can’t run for more than a minute to the stage where they are comfortable running 3 miles in only a few weeks. If you haven’t got round to starting that New Year’s resolution to get into shape and lose a few pounds, this is as good a way to start as any with the only outlay required being a pair of running shoes.
If the thought of running is a little intimidating, why not start off with a walking programme? Westminster is home to several Royal Parks as well as many delightful places for a stroll through smaller parks, squares, historic streets and along the river. You can use Walkit.com to plan a route, or check out one of the many London travel guides in Westminster libraries. Andrew Duncan’s themed walks are particular favourites at Treasure Hunt Towers.
And remember – you have until 6 May to register for the Bupa Westminster mile – sixty years after Roger Bannister!