Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Tauranga Twilight 1985 - John Walker's 92nd Sub 4 Mile

It's hard to believe this was thirty years ago today.

Probably my favourite photo of myself running. After about 250 metres things were quite relaxed.

It's amazing what can transpire at New Year's Eve parties.

I'd normally go up to Tauranga over the new year period to get some good training in and race over 3000m at the twilight meeting on New Year's day. But John Walker was looking at extending his tally of sub four minute miles up to 100 and was taking every opportunity available to get there. The Tauranga Twilight meeting just happened to be another opportunity. However the organisers were finding it difficult to arrange a pacemaker and approached me with an inducement of a dozen beer. I accepted.

Unfortunately the summer had been a bit wetter than usual, which left the track a little soft, and the wind, if not strong by Wellington standards, was quite steady and hampering. John wasn't too sure whether the attempt would be worth it and as we jogged around together he was umming and aahing as to whether to make the attempt or not. This struck me as strange from a guy who always seemed confident of his abilities but years later I saw a documentary about his first breaking 3:50 for the mile and there was the same guy wondering if the conditions would be against him. Finally, about halfway through the warmup, the decision was made to go for the mile.

The field for the mile was a pretty strong one and included Russell Haswell, Mark Furlan and Kerry Roger but the pace which I was to set meant that they'd be left well behind, running for second.

I knew my pace pretty well by this stage in my career and set off to run the first lap in around 58 seconds but John called at me from behind saying "Go faster" so I did. We got through the first lap in 57 and I carried on into the second lap but things became a bit more difficult. I had hoped to carry on for another 200 metres or so after the half mile but unfortunately the softish track and steady breeze precluded this and I had to let John go on his own after I got through the half mile in 1:57 (which was a full second quicker than the 800m was won in that day).

At about 650 metres things aren't looking so comfortable.
John carried on to finish in 3:58.9 which was really impressive given the conditions. The rest of the field were more than ten seconds behind.

The black and white photo above (or at least one very similar to it) was to reappear in The Herald years later, in 2013, when the Queen Street mile was resurrected.

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