The mile is a strange distance in running. As an athletic event, it holds one of the most legendary positions in running history. Most people, whether runners or not, are more than likely familiar with names such as Roger Bannister, Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett and Steve Cram, yet as a mass participation event it has in past years been massively overlooked.
For those of us out there looking to lose weight and keep fit through running, a mile offers little in terms of calorie burn. And it is perhaps largely due to this fact that runners like us are offered an increasing number of 10k and half marathon events every year, not to mention the enormous rise in ultra marathons.
But distance isn’t everything. True, running a mile at the same pace you run a 10k would probably be fairly underwhelming. But running a mile as fast as you can is an entirely different thing altogether. When we took part in our first mile race three years ago we weren’t worried in the slightest. We’d already ran a marathon a few weeks before, this was one 26th of that, surely we’d barely even notice it. Our only tactic was to run as fast as we could until the finish. Yeah it may hurt a bit, but only briefly, right?
What we realised after a few hundred metres is that a mile is a deceptively long way. Too far to set off at full pelt with no strategy save for determination and bravado. By the end, we were bent over coughing loudly at the ground, much like most of the runners around us. It was a tough lesson in short distance running.
Now, three years later, the mile is seeing a greater level of attention amongst the wider running community with events such as the Bupa One Mile and the City of London Mile becoming important and increasingly popular events within the running calendar, filling a much-needed gap in between the April and October marathon seasons. Nike have even set up their Milers running campaign to publicise the distance.
2015 marked the second Amba City of London Mile, a completely free event which takes place around the streets of St Paul’s. In 2014 the race was unfortunately held on the same day as the inaugural Hackney half marathon, a scheduling issue which inevitably meant numbers were affected. This year there were no such problems and the event finally got it’s chance to shine with almost 2,500 people taking on the course.
From 9am in the morning the streets were already flowing with runners as they performed their various warm-up drills and attached race numbers to their shirts. Spectators began to line their way down the sides of the course, shaking their blow up charity batons excitedly, even despite the slight rain.
The first wave began at 10am, with fifty to a hundred people setting out every 10 minutes as the morning went on. The streets grew heavier in cheers and excitement as wave after wave made their way through the course before heading to the finish and picking up their medals.
With the top male (Julian Mathews) hitting 4m 04s and the top female (Alison Leonard) achieving 4m 40s, it was clear that the event had sparked the interest of some impressive runners. Something which will no doubt mean we see further high-level athletes appearing in the future.
Planning a closed road event taking place in central London is no easy thing, let alone for a racing distance seldom attempted by most runners. However the organisers of The City of London Mile managed to pull something together quite special indeed – an event as accessible to elites as it is to newbies. For hardened athletes, the mile represents as much of a challenge as it does to those who’ve only just started out, and unlike Parkrun (which is amazing by the way) it offers a competitive element.
For spectators it offers a constant churn of shorter races, each one with its own winner to cheer on as they sprint to the finish line.
And the best thing about the event, it’s completely free. Yeah, we didn’t believe it either. You even get a medal.
For more information about the Amba City of London Mile click through to the website here.