Westminster Mile Report

Westminster, 26th May, 2019.

The Westminster mile. A flat road mile on the roads around St James Park. Numerous waves setting off at 5–10 minute intervals throughout the day. First race 0930, last race approx. 1500 hours. TV coverage. Chip Timed.

Four competing athletes, one guide runner and one spectator got up at stupid o'clock on Sunday morning to participate in this wonderful event. Simon Dill, the specialist. Omer Homer, the jack of all distances. Courtenay Chessal, the guide. Ben Lines, the mileage monkey. Luke Byrne, the veteran. Dominic Hodge, the cheerleader.

Simon and Omer were up in the first wave. Courtenay was running as Omers guide for this event (Omer is partially sighted so in large events he uses guide runners to keep him from impeding other and getting tripped). At 0930 sharp, the event kicked off, and there were hundreds of runners pelting down The Mall. From the video footage the black and white vests were visible, jostling for a good position going into the first turn. Each harrier went out hard. It is the only way to run these short distances, go out hard and hold on.

Nearing the finish, Simon was the first black and white vest emerging from the sea of runners, hanging on and pushing hard for the finish he was 12th over the line in a truly superb time of 4 minutes 39 seconds. Simon has had a few months on the physio table this year, so this was his first race back. He put in a truly epic performance, he knew he was not in the best shape, but he surprised himself at how much speed he had in those legs of his and how long he could hold on to such a brutal pace. Simon always races hard and today was no exception. Those 4 pairs of trainers you took to one 5 minute event were fully justified.

Not far behind, there was a bit of a racket...Yes, Omer was a few seconds further down the road, but the guy making all the noise was Courtenay (affectionately referred to as Chez from now on). Chez was 3 or 4 strides in front of Omer, willing him on to a faster time. He was running sideways/backwards whilst shrieking at the top of his lungs for Omer to push on harder. Omer was hurting, the pain was clear for all to see, but he battled on towards the line. He crossed the timing mat in an excellent 4 minutes 57 seconds, and was over the moon with his time. He wanted a sub 5 minute mile today, and he really delivered. Chez must have been frustrating those around him, we do all wonder what he might be able to do if he went for a fast mile himself...

Wave #2 started 5 minutes after Wave #1. Ben Lines was in #2. Ben is a recent addition to the harriers. He has been training with us for around a year, this was his first outing in the black and white quarters. He fully admits he is a half marathon to marathon kind of guy, so this event was really under distance for him, but he was keen to have a go at something out of his comfort zone. After a few hundred metres, Ben had settled into about 5th position. As he came through the final 400m, he decided to push on and really kicked hard again with about 100m to go. At this point, he was in 4th position…….he got those legs of his really ticking over in the final straight and managed to overtake 2 further people! Ben had finished 2nd in his wave, with a fantastic time of 5 minutes, 11 seconds. He was chuffed to bits, and rightly so, a brilliant performance at a great event to kick start his harriers career. Although, having witnessed that change of pace, I am not sure you are a marathon man, maybe do a little bit of the shorter stuff and develop that speed further!

So it was not even 0945 and there was one athlete left to compete. However Luke was not up until 1330, so there were several hours to kill. There were, still 20+ waves before Luke’s wave. Some of the waves had football team mascots racing each other, young children barely able to walk but eager to run the mile, London Universities, The Parkrun collective, all sorts. Dominic, although he was too late to get a place in any of the races, did manage to get ALL OF US into the hospitality tent through one of his many contacts. There were Sofa’s, free sweets, the odd drink and a first class view of the finish. Thank you Dom, please can you come again next year?

Luke looked serious. It was about 1245 and he was getting his kit on. He managed to squeeze himself into what he describes as his “Championship Vest”. Yes, ok, it is an original harriers vest, but it is also several sizes too small for him. Nonetheless, he got it on without any help from the others and went really quiet before disappearing off for a warm up and to get to the start line for his event. Why was he nervous? He has been in more races than the rest of the harriers he travelled with that day combined! The wave Luke was in was the British Masters Athletics Championship race for 1 mile. All the athletes in this race were 35 or older and the age groups are broken down into 5 year groups, but you all line up and race together. Off they went. The pace was brutal. Luke settled into around 10th position and although others said he looked relaxed around half way, he was in a serious amount of pain. Pain that gets progressively worse as the second half of the mile ticks by………and when you are hurting this much, there is only one thing to do. Speed up. Turning into the final few hundred metres, there was plenty of encouragement coming from the hospitality area…..Luke kicked as hard as he could, managing to reel in a few other athletes and crossed the line 8th overall. The time was recorded as 4 minutes 38 seconds. Now, he has been having a pretty strong year so far, but even he admits he did not expect to go that fast. The icing on the cake was he got beaten by a lot of older guys…….after careful interrogation of the results, Luke had landed 2nd place in the Male V35 category. However, none of us realised this at the time! A shout out to Simon Gilbert of Devizes who picked up the medal at the medal ceremony! Simon G also ran a fantastic race, finishing 10th overall and 4th in his age category. (Simon Gilbert trains at on Tuesdays with some of the harriers – I think we may even be his second claim club!)

What a day. What a great event. A masters medallist, we are pretty sure Omer posted the fastest T13 time of the day, a new recruit making himself think and a welcome return to one of the best milers at the club. Chez doing yet more selfless acts, well done and thank you Chez. Most importantly, we have finally found Dominic’s best event, Chief sweet talker.