David Weir makes history as he breaks three minutes for the mile

David Weir three minute mile

David Weir made history yesterday as he became the first athlete ever to complete a mile in under three minutes at the Vitality Westminster Mile festival of road racing in central London.

The six-times London Marathon wheelchair winner was blessed with warm sun and dry roads as he flew around the course that skirts St James’s Park in the heart of Westminster to cross the finish line in front of Buckingham Palace, clocking two minutes 57 seconds to smash his former world best time of 3:03.

It was a fitting way to mark this Paralympic year at the fourth edition of an event set up as part of the legacy programme for the London 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

“I’ve always said I could do it,” said Weir, who described his commanding victory over South African rival Ernst van Dyk as a “perfect race”.

“I knew it was possible and training has gone really well. The team behind me have been telling me to get it right. I knew I had to get off to a quick start and that Ernst would chase hard. I knew from last year that my start let me down.

“I was more relaxed down Birdcage Walk, but I was still pushing at 22 miles an hour and that’s not bad,” added Weir, who claimed the fourth of his quartet of London 2012 gold medals when he won the Paralympic Games wheelchair marathon on these streets two years ago, but could only finish third at last month’s Virgin Money London Marathon.

“I was disappointed with London so that gave me a bit more to think about,” said Weir. “I wanted to prove a point that I was still up there with the best in the world.”

Weir raced around the C-shaped route from The Mall to Spur Road with van Dyk, the 10-times Boston Marathon champion, on his tail. Van Dyk challenged the Briton in the early stages but the Briton was just too quick and opened a large gap in the second half.

Weir won his fourth straight Westminster Mile title, retaining the British Athletics men’s wheelchair road mile crown he won 12 months ago in 3:03, having taken the inaugural contest in 2013 in 3:09 and the 2014 race in 3:07.

Nick Goolab (handicap -4.9) won the Sir Roger Bannister trophy as the British Athletics men’s road mile champion, beating Andrew Butchart (handicap -6.4) in a blanket finish, while Sarah McDonald (handicap -0.5) won the women’s senior title, named after Diane Leather, the first woman to run a mile in less than five minutes.

Today, thousands of people are due to run the Vitality London 10,000, Britain’s most iconic 10km race, which starts on The Mall and takes in some of London’s most famous landmarks before finishing in front of Buckingham Palace.

At the head of the race, which incorporates the British 10k Road Race Championships, will be Andy Vernon (handicap -4.2) who will be going for his third successive victory in this event.

Vernon will face stiff competition, however, from Andrew Butchart who will have been working on his recovery from the mile race yesterday. Andrew ran a Scottish record for the 5,000m (13:13:30) last weekend and has put himself in a strong position to win a place on the Great Britain team for the Rio Olympic Games.

In the women’s race, a late withdrawal from Jo Pavey (handicap -0.3) means she won’t be defending the title she won last year. Pavey has been suffering from a chest infection in recent weeks and struggled in the British 10,000m trials for Rio on the track last weekend.

The 42-year-old is trying to make her fifth Olympics and has decided to pull out of the Vitality London 10,000 in order to give herself the best chance of making the Great Britain team for the 5,000m.

Charlotte Purdue (handicap -0.6), who was the third British woman home in April’s London Marathon, will be hoping to continue her good form and fill the void left by Pavey, while Katrina Wootton (handicap 1.0) will be looking to repeat her win from 2013.

Fresh from their mile race, David Weir and Ernst van Dyk will be back in action in the first elite wheelchair race to be staged as part of the event.

Also doubling up are Rafa Botello-Jiminez, Justin Levene, Jabri Knight, Nikki Emmerson and Martyna Snopek.

To keep the runners motivated, there will be 10 bands playing along the course and the second day of the free Vitality Wellness Festival in Green Park.