Athletics News

Exciting plans for a ‘steeplechase mile’ in Oxford on May 6

Exciting plans for a ‘steeplechase mile’ in Oxford on May 6

The Bannister Miles to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the first sub-four-minute mile is set to feature an innovative four-lap race over barriers

Whatever the weather, the Bannister Miles meeting in Oxford on May 6 is certain to see a world record with a “steeplechase mile” making its international debut.

The day has been designed to celebrate the 70th anniversary of Roger Bannister’s first sub-four-minute mile. But history and tradition aside, organisers are keen to embrace the age of innovation by including a unique four-lap race over barriers.

Due to the unusual nature of a steeplechase mile, world records – or world bests, as World Athletics prefer to call them in this case – are guaranteed. But how close can the men and women come to the four and five-minute barriers respectively?

A sub-four-minute mile over barriers would have been the stuff of science fiction in 1954 when Bannister was at his peak. Yet in 2024 how near would someone like Jakob Ingebrigtsen come to breaking four minutes in a one mile ’chase?

The Norwegian holds the European record for the mile with 3:43.73, after all, whereas he ran a European under-20 record of 8:26.81 for the 3000m steeplechase when he was aged 16 in 2017. What’s more, in the same year he won the European under-20 title in the 3000m steeplechase in Grosseto and competed in the ‘chase at the World Championships in London, albeit finishing eighth in his heat.

Ingebrigtsen has hinted that he may return to the steeplechase one day. Would racing a ’chase over one mile appeal to him? The Olympic 1500m champion’s appearance fee will surely be beyond the budget for the Bannister Miles event in May, but if the event becomes more established then we could feasibly see him tackle it one day.

These steeplechase mile races will be held for men and women in Oxford during a series of British Milers’ Club races in the afternoon. It is not entirely the BMC’s idea, though. Instead they were approached by Jakob Larsen and Florian Weber from World Athletics – the same innovative duo who are exploring current long jump rules, among other things.

There have, of course, been plenty of steeplechase races in the past at distances other than 3000m. Fittingly, some of the earliest steeplechase races were in the University of Oxford sports events in the 1860s over cross-country. When the steeplechase made its Olympic debut on the track in Paris in 1900 the races were held over 2500m and 4000m. Since then…

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