BMC celebrates 50th anniversary with classic mile races at Iffley Road
The BMC Grand Prix at Oxford on Saturday was the fourth in the series and a celebration of the organisation’s 50 years in existence.
With the event taking place on the hallowed Iffley Road track which saw the most momentous occasion in middle-distance history, the first sub-4 minute mile by Sir Roger Bannister, the 1500m was dropped in favour of the mile.
On a windy afternoon the women’s 800m proved that age is no barrier with Diane Cummins of Canada, now a V35, showing the field a clean pair of heels coming home with something in hand clocking 2:03.6, as Chanelle Price of the USA took second in 2:04.3 and Shelayna Oskan-Clarke in third with 2:04.4.
Notably, Alison Leonard failed to finish citing problems with a lack of motivation. Later in the afternoon, and no doubt fired up by her failure over two laps, Leonard asked to be entered into the mile and finished stronger than anyone else taking the race in 4:42.40 from Stevie Stockton who clocked 4:43.60.
The men’s 800m was a much closer affair with Abraham Kiplagat crossing the line in 1:49.59 from Rory Graham-Watson (1:49.68) and Guy Learmonth (1:49.73).
The 3000m saw Phil Hurst build a big lead in his quest for a sub-8 minute clocking, but with little help from the field he had to be satisfied with 8:06.37. Neilsen Hall came through to take second with 8:08.68.
There were youngsters on view too with the Peter Coe (male) and Frank Horwill (female) races for under-17 athletes, most of who had qualified via PB Classic races earlier in the season at Millfield, Milton Keynes and Corby.
In the girls’ race Sophie Tooley (U15) took the title in 4:58.66 from Gemma Shepherd 5:01.58 and Lydia Hallam 5:05.21. In the boys’ race George Elliott clocked 4:23.41 with a much quicker final two laps to take the title from Billy White (4:24.91) and Jamie Dee (4:26.98).
And so to the star attraction, the men’s mile. Could anyone break the 4-minute barrier and could anyone run faster than Bannister’s 3:59.4 set 59 years ago on a then cinder track? The answer was an emphatic yes, and just like waiting for a bus, there was a double whammy.
Richard Peters came storming down the home-straight to stop the clock at 3:58.70, a performance he hopes may sneak him into next week’s Emsley Carr Mile. Not to be outdone, Jonny Mellor also finished strongly and his reward was a 3:58.76 clocking – two excellent runs in not very helpful conditions.
The mile may be a thing of the past for many, but at Oxford the magic still remains.
» For full results see here