History made as record numbers finish the Vitality Westminster Mile

top 3 on podium women mile - Courtney MacDonald Muir

Chris O’Hare and Melissa Courtney defended their British One Mile Road Race titles at the Vitality Westminster Mile in central London today as the event set a new global record of 9,198 finishers in a timed mile event. 

It was a special day for O’Hare (handicap -6.1) as he clocked 4:00 exactly to clinch the Roger Bannister Trophy for a second year in succession, while Courtney (handicap -1.7) held off European 1500m champion Laura Muir (handicap -2.6) in the women’s race to retain the Diane Leather Trophy.

“The win was the most important thing in my mind, but I knew I would probably have to break four to do it,” said O’Hare, whose course record was a fitting tribute to Bannister, coming just weeks after the 65th anniversary of the legend’s first ever four-minute mile.

O’Hare clocked 4:00 exactly to beat a resurgent Jonathan Davies (handicap -2.6)  and Elliot Giles (handicap -5.2) in a sprint finish in front of Buckingham Palace. O’Hare led the awesome field with 250m to go on the loop course around St James’s Park in central London and kicked away from Giles as he turned towards the Finish Line on Spur Road. Davies moved into second to challenge the defending champion but O’Hare had daylight to spare as he stopped the clock at four-dead, a new course record.

There were no records in the women’s race but an equally close finish as Courtney powered away from Muir and Sarah McDonald (handicap -0.1) off the final bend to repeat her victory from 12 months ago.

“The girls ran a great race today and they were a bit faster than me in the last 100m,” said Muir, whose sights are set on global gold at the World Championships in Doha this September.

“I am happy with where I am at this stage of the season,” Muir continued. “Losing hurts a bit, of course, but these girls are fantastic athletes in their own right so it’s no disgrace. There’s a long season ahead.”

“It was a really stacked field,” agreed Courtney. “Everyone was here from Laura down, so I am delighted to have defended my title. It’s really unexpected.

“With 400m to go I felt quite easy and I was hoping someone else would push it a bit. Then we turned the last corner and I knew I had to go for it as the others were all there with me. I’m so pleased I had it at the end."

Britain’s distance running legend Sir Mo Farah (handicap -8.1) inspired 9,198 people to run in more than 30 waves on the spectacular course around St James’s Park, making the 2019 Vitality Westminster Mile the largest timed mile event in the world after 8,048 completed the course in 2018.

The quadruple Olympic champion was at the Start Line on The Mall this morning to cheer on runners before joining the final family wave himself and jogging to the Finish Line in front of Buckingham Palace alongside his awe-struck fans – a gentle warm-up for his bid to win a sixth British 10k road race title in the Vitality London 10,000 tomorrow morning.

“It’s great to be here helping to get the kids active,” said Farah. “It’s really special for them to be able to run on this course and it’s important for people like me to be here. 

“For me, growing up, seeing my idols and role models close up was important and they’re all here running on the same course as the marathon. It’s a special thing.”

Earlier the entire England men’s one-day cricket squad turned out just four days before their opening ICC World Cup fixture to support former captain Andrew Strauss in the inaugural Ruth Strauss Foundation Family Mile. 

The run marked the launch of the Foundation set up in memory of Strauss’s wife who died in December 2018 from a rare form of lung cancer. 

“It is quite an emotional day but a really special one for me too,” said the former opening batsman, who captained England from 2008 to 2012. 

“It means a huge amount to me to have the England team here. I know the situation they’re in right now and the huge demands on their time. I’m absolutely blown away that they made it.

“This is an incredible event to be part of and a perfect way to launch the Foundation,” he added.

Downton Abbey star Jim Carter was one of a number of other famous faces who turned out for the annual Olympic legacy event.

Carter – who played the butler, Mr Carson, in the award-winning TV series – joined the Unified Mile to celebrate 50 years of the Special Olympics, an organisation that uses sport to foster inclusion and community for people with intellectual disabilities.

“The Special Olympics is all about joining in, and that’s what this day is about too,” said Carter. “To have 450 people running for us and being cheered around the course is a great thing and shows what a great charity it is.”

Ten-year-old Fred Bentley was one of the lucky family runners who had the chance to #RunWithMo on his one-mile journey around central London’s most royal greenery.

“It was great to get a high five with Mo at the Start,” said Fred, who was running with mum, Rachel. “He gave me a lot of confidence for my run, so I pushed myself to my limit.”

“What an experience,” added Rachel. “Mo is an absolute legend and it’s so inspiring to have him here. I’m very happy we made it.”

Eleven-year-old Saraa Kaur was very happy too after having a selfie with Britain’s distance star before her run, perfect inspiration to complete the course with her mum, Rajwant.

“It was really nice to have Mo there,” said Rajwant afterwards. “It’s a great way to get the kids into it, and it’s lovely to be able to do this event together.”

For Elaine Wyllie, what makes the Vitality Westminster Mile so special is its emphasis on “participation and fun”. As founder of The Daily Mile school fitness initiative, that’s a message she has been promoting nationwide for more than four years.

Today she was at the Finish Line on Spur Road to greet dozens of young runners at the end of The Daily Mile London wave, featuring schools from almost every borough in the capital.

“The Vitality Westminster Mile is such an uplifting event,” she said. “It’s fun, simple and free. And it’s fully inclusive. Anyone can do it, whatever their ability or disability. 

“Look at the resilience, stamina and smiles. And what better setting in the world could there be than this. It’s glorious.”