Athletics News

Bannister Miles lives up to expectations with sub-fours galore

Bannister Miles lives up to expectations with sub-fours galore

A jubilant Ossama Meslek leads a quartet of milers inside four minutes in Oxford exactly 70 years after Roger Bannister’s famous feat

On an afternoon that saw Iffley Road track in Oxford drenched with relentless rain, the showers finally stopped just in time for the final race of the day at 6pm. The flag on top of the nearby church stopped fluttering in the wind and went limp, just as it had 70 years earlier when Roger Bannister became the first man to break four minutes for the mile.

On that occasion – May 6, 1954 – Bannister created history with 3:59.4. This Monday, though, four men smashed through the barrier on a day of joyous anniversary celebrations.

Ossama Meslek led the charge in glorious style with 3:56.15 followed by James Young with 3:57.71, Tiarnan Crorken in 3:58.85 and Max Wharton with 3:59.19. The Italian international, who runs for Leeds City, even had the luxury of celebrating during his final strides as a crowd of around 2000 roared its approval.

Moments earlier – and 70 years after Diane Leather had become the world’s first female sub-five-minute miler – Khai Mhlanga ran 4:36.09 to hold off Bethan Morley and Lauren Church in the women’s mile.

Ossama Meslek (Will Palmer)

“Going sub-four here is pretty special,” said Meslek. “As I’m racing at the Diamond League in Doha in a few days’ time, it felt perfect to come here. The conditions didn’t seem great but it was perfectly still in the end. I tried to wind it up toward the end and everything went to plan.”

Among the crowd was current world mile record-holder Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco, British record-holder Steve Cram and former mile record-holders Filbert Bayi of Tanzania and Noureddine Morceli of Algeria, plus Irish miling legend Eamonn Coghlan. After being swamped by autograph hunters and selfie seekers all day, the supermilers turned their attentions to watch the main race of the day – and it didn’t disappoint.

The Bannister family were also in attendance with their father, who died in 2018, no doubt casting a nod of approval from the heavens. “I think he would have been very proud of what happened today,” said one of his sons, Thurstan Bannister.

El Guerrouj, whose mile record of 3:43.13 has stood since 1999, was determined to visit Oxford for the anniversary celebrations despite visa problems and he said: “I wanted to be here to celebrate the whole legacy that our spiritual father left behind.

“I had the privilege to meet Roger Bannister…

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