Iconic race boasts an amazing history and will be staged during the Night of the 10,000m PBs in London on May 14

With a history dating back to 1953 and a list of winners that reads like a who’s who of middle-distance running greats, the Emsley Carr Mile is one of the most iconic races in athletics. One thing is has never quite had, though, is a regular home.

After being held in the White City in London for the first 16 years, it has subsequently moved around the nation. From Crystal Palace and Cwmbran to Sheffield and Swansea, in more recent years it has been held during Diamond League meetings at the Olympic Stadium in London, Alexander Stadium in Birmingham or, last year, Gateshead International Stadium.

Next month, though, it will be held as part of the Night of the 10,000m PBs on Hampstead Heath in north London on Saturday May 14. After losing the European 10,000m Cup element of the meeting, it is a coup for the organisers and it will be interesting to see how such an historic race is weaved into the vibrant modern meeting that Highgate Harriers have created.

One thing that is crucial is that the fields are strong. The reputation of the Emsley Carr Mile has been built on the impressive quality of the line-ups and let’s hope the 2022 event does not let us down.

The standard was set in 1953 when the inaugural Emsley Carr Mile was won by Gordon Pirie. Better known as a cross-country and long distance track runner, Pirie also had a good turn of speed and cult appeal among the country’s endurance running fraternity.

Gordon Pirie (Getty)

The name of Pirie, I would guess, probably won’t even mean much to many current athletes in their teens or 20s. But such was his popularity in 1955 he was named BBC Sports Personality of the Year and in 1965 he finished top of an AW readers’ poll to decide “the greatest British athlete in history”.

After Pirie came the mercurial Ken Wood. Google his name now and all you will find are links about Britain’s leading manufacturer of food mixing devices. Yet in the 1950s and early 1960s he was one of the world’s top milers who possessed such an explosive sprint finish that it helped him win a record four Emsley Carr Mile titles between 1954 and 1961.

Ken Wood beats Brian Hewson in 1956 (Getty)

In an interview published in AW in 2004, Wood told me an amazing (and slightly unbelievable) story about how he ran the world’s first sub-four-minute one month before Roger Bannister’s famous feat. However, whereas Bannister’s run at Oxford’s Iffley Road was in an official race with timekeepers holding stopwatches, Wood’s apparent sub-four was during a ‘training race’ in Sheffield with barely any witnesses.

Still, his four Emsley Carr Mile wins were no accident and as the years rolled on and the event moved from London to Scotland to Wales and elsewhere, the winners included legends such as Kip Keino of Kenya, Jim Ryun of the United States, Said Aouita of Morocco, Haile Gebrselassie of Ethiopia, Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco, plus Brits like Seb Coe, Steve Ovett, Dave Moorcroft and Peter Elliott.

Hicham El Guerrouj signs the Emsley Carr Mile book (Getty)

Not surprisingly it was recognised in 2019 by World Athletics and awarded a Heritage plaque for its historical importance. Among other things, part of its charm is that all winners must sign a large Emsley Carr Mile book moments after their victory.

The latest signature was written by Elliot Giles, who took victory in Gateshead last year at a meeting that also saw the women’s equivalent, the Millicent Fawcett Mile, won by Kate Grace of the United States. A more recent creation with a four-year history, the Millicent Fawcett Mile will also be part of the Night of the 10,000m PBs event on May 14.

Elliot Giles pips Jake Heyward (Mark Shearman)

About 15 years ago the Emsley Carr Mile struggled to find a place in the spotlight. The 2006 race at Alexander Stadium was an extraordinarily slow tactical affair won in a pedestrian 4:10.02, whereas the following year, in 2007, the event was held at a British Milers’ Club event at Stretford track in Manchester and therefore not televised.

As this classic race continues its peripatetic existence, hopefully the Night of the 10,000m PBs will turn into a relatively long-term host venue.

After all, an event of such stature and history surely deserves a good home.

Emsley Carr Mile winners

1953 Gordon Pirie (GBR) 4:06.80 White City
1954 Ken Wood (GBR) 4:04.80 White City
1955 Ken Wood (GBR) 4:05.40 White City
1956 Derek Ibbotson (GBR) 3:59.40 White City
1957 Ken Wood (GBR) 4:02.00 White City
1958 Murray Halberg (NZL) 4:06.50 White City
1959 Derek Ibbotson (GBR) 4:03.10 White City
1960 László Tábori (USA) 4:00.30 White City
1961 Ken Wood (GBR) 4:08.40 White City
1962 Jim Beatty (USA) 3:56.52 White City
1963 Bill Crothers (CAN) 4:06.50 White City
1964 Witold Baran (POL) 3:56.04 White City
1965 Alan Simpson (GBR) 4:04.11 White City
1966 Kip Keino (KEN) 3:53.42 White City
1967 Jim Ryun (USA) 3:56.02 White City
1968 John Whetton (GBR) 3:58.56 White City
1969 Francesco Arese (ITA) 3:57.80 Crystal Palace
1970 Ian Stewart (GBR) 3:57.40 Meadowbank
1971 Peter Stewart (GBR) 4:00.40 Meadowbank
1972 Peter Stewart (GBR) 3:55.30 Crystal Palace
1973 Frank Clement (GBR) 4:01.81 Crystal Palace
1974 Frank Clement (GBR) 3:57.44 Crystal Palace
1975 Filbert Bayi (TAN) 3:55.50 Crystal Palace
1976 David Moorcroft (GBR) 3:57.06 Crystal Palace
1977 Sebastian Coe (GBR) 3:57.67 Crystal Palace
1978 John Robson (GBR) 3:55.83 Crystal Palace
1979 Steve Ovett (GBR) 3:56.58 Gateshead Stadium
1980 Colin Reitz (GBR) 4:00.60 Meadowbank
1981 Geoff Smith (GBR) 3:55.80 Cwmbran
1982 David Moorcroft (GBR) 3:57.84 Crystal Palace
1983 Sebastian Coe (GBR) 4:03.37 Alexander Stadium
1984 Peter Elliott (GBR) 3:55.71 Gateshead
1985 Mark Rowland (GBR) 4:01.70 Swansea
1986 Neil Horsfield (GBR) 3:57.03 Swansea
1987 John Walker (NZL) 3:58.75 Gateshead
1988 Chris McGeorge (GBR) 4:07.07 Crystal Palace
1989 Saïd Aouita (MAR) 3:51.97 Gateshead
1990 Peter Elliott (GBR) 3:55.51 Gateshead
1991 Peter Elliott (GBR) 3:52.10 Sheffield
1992 Steve Crabb (GBR) 3:58.76 Sheffield
1993 Philemon Hanneck (ZIM) 3:57.06 Portsmouth
1994 Kevin McKay (GBR) 3:58.72 Gateshead
1995 Vénuste Niyongabo (BDI) 3:49.80 Crystal Palace
1996 William Tanui (KEN) 3:54.57 Sheffield
1997 Vénuste Niyongabo (BDI) 3:53.28 Sheffield
1998 Laban Rotich (KEN) 3:51.74 Sheffield
1999 Haile Gebrselassie (ETH) 3:52.39 Gateshead
2000 Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR) 3:45.96 Crystal Palace
2001 Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR) 3:49.41 Crystal Palace
2002 Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR) 3:50.86 Crystal Palace
2003 Paul Korir (KEN) 3:48.17 Crystal Palace
2004 Paul Korir (KEN) 3:49.84 Crystal Palace
2005 Michael East (GBR) 3:52.50 Sheffield
2006 Gabe Jennings (USA) 4:10.02 Alexander Stadium
2007 Jon Rankin (USA) 3:54.24 Stretford
2008 Shedrack Kibet Korir (KEN) 3:54.68 Crystal Palace
2009 Bernard Lagat (USA) 3:52.71 Crystal Palace
2010 Augustine Choge (KEN) 3:50.14 Crystal Palace
2011 Leonel Manzano (USA) 3:51.21 Crystal Palace
2012 Silas Kiplagat (KEN) 3:52.44 Crystal Palace
2013 Augustine Choge (KEN) 3:50.01 London Stadium
2014 Asbel Kiprop (KEN) 3:51.89 Alexander Stadium
2015 Asbel Kiprop (KEN) 3:54.87 London Stadium
2016 Silas Kiplagat (KEN) 3:53.04 London Stadium
2017 Jake Wightman (GBR) 3:54.92 Alexander Stadium
2018 Stewart McSweyn (AUS) 3:54.60 Alexander Stadium

Stewart McSweyn with the Emsley Carr Mile book

2019 Samuel Tefera (ETH) 3:49.45 London Stadium
2020 Cancelled due to Covid pandemic
2021 Elliot Giles (GBR) 3:52.49 Gateshead

Millicent Fawcett Mile

2018 Sifan Hassan (NLD) 4:14:71 London Stadium
2019 Konstanze Klosterhalfen (GER) 4:21:11 Birmingham
2021 Kate Grace (USA) 4:27:20 Gateshead

Sifan Hassan (Mark Shearman)

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