Neil Featherby: Norfolk’s hidden gem of a running event...
For as long as people have been running and racing, the one mile distance (1,760 yards or 1,609.344 metres) has always captured the imagination going right back to the late 1700s and through the 19th century.
Bets would be placed on what was mainly professional athletes of the day who led the way when it came to setting world best times.
However, and whilst the introduction of the modern Olympic Games in 1896, brought with it the metric mile of 1,500 metres which then became the favoured distance, the British Empire & Commonwealth Games as it was known upon its first introduction in 1930, still kept with the imperial distances for all its track and field events right up to 1970 for which there really were many world class mile races contested for during that period.
Nevertheless and away from any major championships of today, there are still so many mile races (track and road) around the world which are steeped in so much history and have a place very much in the athletics calendar.
Whilst the current men's track mile record of 3:43.13 was set by Morocco's, Hicham El Guerrouj, 20 years ago in 1999 and the woman's record of 4:12.33 by Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands in July of this year, it really was the chase just over 65 years ago to become the first ever sub 4 minute miler which had the leading athletes of the day chasing what was at the time a huge barrier.
The two favourites to do this were the great Australian middle distance runner John Landy and of course Roger Bannister who after a specially organised race for him on May 6th, 1954, at the Iffley Road track in Oxford, saw him finish in almost a state of collapse whilst clocking 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds to become the first person to break what had been deemed just a few years before an almost impossible barrier.
Landy did however, then go on to reduce the record by another 1.4 seconds just six weeks later which made for what was deemed to be the race of the century, "The Miracle Mile" when the two met each other for the first time at the British Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Canada, a further two weeks later.
After a very dramatic finish, which saw John Landy looking over his shoulder just as he was making his final kick towards the finish line, Roger Bannister came round him on his blind side and went on to win in a time of 3:58.8 to Landy's 3:59.6.
Now whilst I would like to write more about what has taken place since that amazing period in time, it is much nearer to home and a place called Braydeston where I want to focus my column on this week.
Braydeston is located between Lingwood and Brundall and after doing a google search, it said it is seven miles east of Norwich and has 126 souls that inhabit the village. Oh and it was also mentioned in the Doomsday Book of 1086.
Whilst this is all very interesting, it is also home to an event called the Braydeston Mile Road Race and while we are all so very much aware of the many races which now exist here in Norfolk, this is a great little event which I am pretty sure lots of people don't know anything about.
Having said that, I also think that this is something which and for the want of a better word, the brains behind the run, Adie Grand is quite content with.
I have known Adie for years and apart from Glen Dunham, he has completed more of my crazy Boxing Day Runs than anyone else.
After asking him a bit more about how the The Braydeston Mile and The Braydeston Milers Club (Informal) came to be, he said it all came about after laying on a beach in Rhodes in 2014, whilst reading a book about the great rivalry which existed between Seb Coe and Steve Ovett. Then upon returning home from holiday, he got his surveyors wheel out and found the flattest stretch of road a couple of miles from his house which measured up to a mile or as he puts it, "a back road in the middle of nowhere".
Initially there were only half a dozen people who would all just agree to meet up on any given Friday night to test themselves over the distance. It was all done just by word of mouth too.
What with social media of course now being so very popular though, word has got out in some other quarters for which the numbers have gone up, but even then still only to a maximum of 31 runners.
The race is of course open to everyone and although there are no set specific dates, the Braydeston Mile will usually take place about eight or nine times each year and usually on a Friday night although there have been a few other occasions to coincide with one of the regular's birthday or to mark a special event such as Christmas, New Year or charity such as Comic Relief.
With regards to having no set dates, when they do decide to go for it, notice is usually only given just a couple of days beforehand which also adds to what I think is the quirkiness of this running event.
To be honest, I love stuff like this and in truth it typifies Adie's character.
"It is nothing but a bit of fun and that's how we want to keep it." he said. "There are plenty of races out there to be taken seriously, but with our event, there are no entry fees and each runner even has to time themselves. As for the potential to cheat, I really cannot imagine why anyone would ever want to do that and certainly not amongst our group."
I did say what about if after people have read this column, you suddenly get an influx of entries for which he laughed out loud and said: "If we do then I will blame you, but at the end of the day, whilst I really don't want it to grow too much bigger, anyone can have a go. Seeing everyone laying on the side of the road exhausted at the end of it always makes me smile especially when you hear a first timer saying on the start line that it is only a mile, it can't be that hard."
At the end of each year, the fastest male and female are awarded with an engraved cup which so far this year is Cameron Panting with a time of 4:54 clocking and Amy Beck in 5:24.
I have a feeling that, Adie and co, might just find that after this article has gone out, they may just have some very competitive runners out there trying to find out more information about this great little event.
However, and just to reinforce the fun and friendliness of The Braydeston Mile, in Adie's words: "Our philosophy is that we do what we want, when we want and there is nothing better than meeting up with a group of like minded friends on a Friday night and then running a mile."
With that, all I can further say is awesome and long may it continue…..
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