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Westminster Mile – John King reports back from The Mall

On Sunday, I managed to persuade my wife to take me to Woking train station to get me to Waterloo for the Vitality Westminster Mile.  This ensured that I was able to get to Green Park in loads of time for wave 1 at 9:30am.  Alright I did get there far too early but I really do hate to be late for anything, especially a race and I think I was probably the very first runner on site. Just don’t tell the wife.
Having so much time on my hands was great as I could wander around, getting a feel for the setup.  First impressions were excellent; something for everybody.  Immediate  thought was, ‘why can’t all runs be more like this?’  My family would’ve loved mooching around, especially my 14 year old son Tom.  There was a meter and a half wide by eight meter long treadmill, which looked very bouncy with no sides, instead there were crash mats to catch any hapless runners… When I took a look later in the day, there were huge queues waiting their turn.  Each person was announced to the crowd and were invited to hop on and run.  After a brief warmup they were brought up to speed to see how long they could last at a certain mph of their choosing for about a minute.  Great fun to watch, the queue was about 2 hours, so I wandered off to the other areas.  There was cricket for children to have a go at, football, hockey and netball.  Also a New Balance area, eateries and picnic areas etc, with a sea of portaloos.  Far too many for Sunday, but makes more sense when you remember that the main event is on the next day, the 10K!
Onto the race itself.  The Start and Finish areas are close together, so the all important baggage area is a short walk from the start, nearer the finish which is a good idea.  Well staffed and appeared to be well organised, so no real dramas.  Getting to the start then was OK, roped off areas and the usual number checks on entry.  I was literally in the very first wave, then happened to see Jim Casey (of that famous Sandhurst Joggers running club) heading to the baggage area.  He was in the second wave, so decided to wait for him at the Finish for a catch up afterwards.  The wave timings went by clockwork and soon there were only ten seconds to go!  Boom! We were off.
Westminster mile strava
Heading out at a fair lick, our wave descended on the first right hand turn of about five, so was opposite to running on a track.  My breathing was the first indication that I was going way too fast for a parkrun, but this wasn’t my usual 5k speed session; it was far shorter than that, a veritable sprint!  This was going to hurt big time, so I just had to imagine it was the final push on a race to the finish.  There was a decent stretch before halfway where you could open the taps and give it some beans, holding on to the finish.  The distance markers really helped, obviously no mile markers but I remember seeing 400 metres, 800 meters, 400 meters to go, maybe 200 meters? There was definitely 100 meters to go as that was the wake up call to throw the hammer down!  At this stage I was in a world of pain, sweating more than the pint of Guinness in my minds eye that I was hoping to demolish later that day, cold as ice…
From about half way, I began to catch a few of the speedy youngsters that had gone off too quick and before long it was all over!  What an amazing experience!  I never run at that speed for longer than 50 yards, so it all felt surreal to me, but oh so rewarding.
After meeting up with Jim, we swapped war stories and had a quick change.  The usual goody bag was OK, but the medal is brilliant, as below.
Really lovely detail on the reverse side showing the route that we ran.
Jim and I found a good viewing area near the finish, him chatting to a dusky lady that had caught his eye (LOL) and to make the day even better, we witnessed a World Record attempt!  There was a couple running, holding hands, attempting the ‘Who can run a mile the fastest whilst holding your partner’s hand’ record.  Unbelievably they not only beat the record, they took a whole minute off the time!  Something like 5mins 24 secs, or something like that, way faster than we could do it by ourselves.  Incredible! All the time we were hoping to see Mo Farah, but after a while, we decided to head off and take a look further down the road, nearer the start area about half way.  We both enjoyed cheering the runners on and wondering if we would ever see Mo.  He was billed to be running in one of the family waves and just as we were both pondering this, Sir Mo Farah was there, running along right in front of us!  Unbelievable!  I just had to call out to him and do the (now naff, probably) Mobot.  This made my day!  I am such a huge fan of his and he was just yards away.  Awesome!
We couldn’t really top this, so Jim went off shopping and I made my way back to the start for some food and drink.  As the weather was wonderful, everywhere was now very busy and all the activities were in full swing.  A grand day out for all the family.  Jim and I agreed that we need more SJs there next year, so come and have a chat with us if interested and we’ll give you the lowdown on this event.  Only £8 to enter too!  But could be the most expensive race ever if you go on £s per mile.
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