Double Olympic 1500m medallist Nick Willis becomes pacemaker in event which sees an athlete revived after heart attack

Nick Willis – Olympic 1500m silver and bronze medallist from Beijing 2008 and Rio 2016 respectively – returned to the track once again on May 12 to become the pacemaker for amateur runners over the mile distance.

The first edition of the Tracksmith Amateur Mile – which took place on the London 2017 warm-up track – saw 274 runners compete over 13 races, varying from eight-minute miles to an attempt at a sub-four minute mile in the last race.

Thames Hare & Hound’s Josh Carr, who has a personal mile best of 4:00.98, won the men’s elite race in 4:09.53, with Guildford & Godalming AC’s John Sanderson second in 4:10.10 and Hercules Wimbledon AC’s Charlie Eastaugh third in 4:11.56.

In the women’s elite race, Reading AC’s Emma Howsham claimed a comfortable victory but narrowly missed out on a sub-five minute mile with 5:02.35. Highgate Harriers’ Ellen Donald clocked a PB of 5:05.99 to finish second while fellow clubmate Yasmin Goater was third in 5:12.63.

Willis, who finished ninth in the Olympic 1500m at London 2012, turned back the years and paced, giving club athletes the opportunities to get a taste of what it is like for elite runners.

“We just love running and doing the mile because it’s one of the most simple events that people can get into the sport with or for anyone who’s just sick of running marathons and wants to step down,” the 39-year-old New Zealander said. “The goal is to have a community event for people from an eight-minute mile to someone trying to break four minutes tonight.

“A lot of us elites have experienced all of the benefits of having pacemakers under the lights and running in the evening which makes track running faster and that much more memorable. The community runner doesn’t always get that experience and become an elite runner in their own right.

“We’ve done 5km versions of this in the USA last year but we want to expand on that and have an imprint on Europe and London is of course the centre of Europe. We’re an American brand coming to the UK so we want to be respectful and learn from the running community in the UK.”

Nick Willis pacing the mile (George Tewkesbury)

The programme that Tracksmith has set-up meant that the 274 runners involved were also given the opportunity of a week’s training programme to prepare them for their respective mile races.

These were led by 2012 Olympian and 3:52 miler Ross Murray and Lifestyle Editor of the Guardian and runner herself Kate Carter.

Sessions varied from climbs up Parliament Hill to tempo intervals and an 800m time trial in Paddington.

The night however was initially overshadowed due to one of the masters runners in the first race collapsing on the track. Due to the quick reactions of the on-site medic and a couple of medically trained members of the crowd, the person was revived after CPR and two shocks from a defibrillator.

One of the paramedics told AW that when the person was revived they stated that they wanted to “get up and finish the race”. An ambulance soon arrived and they were whisked to hospital.

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