Young British milers start to build on the Olympic legacy

Simon Turnbull
Saturday 27 July 2013 23:12 BST

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Louise Thomas

Louise Thomas


It has been one 'L' of a Legacy. While the 65,000 ticket-only guests raised a glass to the first birthday of the infant London 2012 Olympics, and to Jess, Mo and Co, there was a drop of considerably greater vintage to savour as the Emsley Carr Mile clocked up another milestone at the Sainsbury's Anniversary Games yesterday.

The history of the race stretches back 60 years — all the way to a summer of royal celebrations. It was inaugurated in 1953, in memory of Sir Emsley Carr, long-time editor of the News of the World, and has been graced by the greats of middle distance running for six decades now.

The Emsley Carr Mile Trophy is a book bound in the same red Moroccan leather used for the Queen's Coronation Bible in 1953 and includes the names, times and signatures of every athlete who has taken part. The list of past winners includes nine Olympic champions (Sebastian Coe, Steve Ovett, Kip Keino, John Walker, Said Aouita, Murray Halberg,Haile Gebrselassie, William Tanui and Venuste Niyongabo) and seven men who have held the world mile record (Coe, Ovett, Walker, Filbert Bayi, Hicham El Guerrouj, Derek Ibbotson and Jim Ryun).

It was in some pretty hallowed footsteps, then, that young Jake Wightman was preparing to follow as he stepped into the cauldron of the 2012 Olympic arena and took his place on the start line. "And in lane six, Jake Wightman of Great Britain, European Junior 1500m champion," the stadium announcer said, as he ran through the 20-man field.

It just so happened that the man behind the mic – reprising a role he performed with distinction at London 2012 – was Jake Wightman's father and coach. Geoff Wightman is a former international marathon runner – oh, and head of road running at UK Athletics, and one of the track and field world's leading announcers.

Considering that Jake's mother, Susan, ran for Britain in the 1988 Olympic marathon in Seoul, Wightman Jnr has been blessed with some impressive genes. He made good use of them last Sunday with the flying finish that won him his European Junior 1500m title at Rieti in Italy.

That supreme effort took its toll with a lap and a half to go yesterday as the 19-year-old Scot dropped off the pace. "That was rubbish," Wightman maintained as he left the arena. "I didn't do myself justice."

Still, 17th place in 4min 00.62sec was by no means a disgrace. It took a whopping 26sec off the Loughborough University student's two-year-old personal best for the mile. "I thought my dad played it well," he added. "If he'd bigged me up on the start line I would have felt stupid."

Up ahead of the emerging Wightman, Charlie Grice, won the battle of the Britons in the race, finishing 13th in 3:54.61, a lifetime best. The 19-year-old is a member of the Brighton Phoenix club that has produced two Emsley Carr Mile champions: Steve Ovett and Mark Rowland. The winner yesterday, in 3:50.01, was Augustin Choge of Kenya.

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