Vitality Westminster Mile: Rounding up a brilliant day of running and fundraising

2019 European Athletics Indoor Championships - Day One

Location, atmosphere and great athletes; the Vitality Westminster Mile has it all.

Staged by the idyllic Buckingham Palace and without an intimidating 26.2 mileage, the event draws everyone from elite runners to school children in one joyful celebration of running.

Sir Mo Farah - who will contest the London 10k tomorrow - was on hand to cheer on the waves of amateur runners that started the day and even joined a few for motivation along the way.

Even before the professional runners had started their warm-ups, the people of London had seen cohorts representing the Special Olympics, ParkRun and other brilliant organisations.

Each and every charity represented at these events are worthy of merit, but it would be naive to deny that the money-raising efforts of the Ruth Strauss Foundation stood out in particular.

The Ruth Strauss Foundation

Joined by the England Cricket World Cup squad, former captain Andrew Strauss led a special wave of the Mile in memory of his late wife, who passed away from lung cancer last December.

"It's a very emotional day," Strauss told GiveMeSport after the race. "It's effectively 500 friends and colleagues of my wife Ruth who have come together to run this race today.

"It's in memory of Ruth, but it's also the launch of a foundation, which is trying to make something positive come out of Ruth's situation and help people who are going through the same thing have an easier journey.

Former Olympians take part

"Either by us finding out more about these rare forms of lung cancer that tend to hit younger people and people who haven't smoked, and also to provide the right sort of psychological and emotional support."

Shortly after Strauss and co. left the course, over 100 former British Olympians strode their way down the Mall, clad in the very uniforms they wore at sport's biggest competition.

The likes of Jacquiline Agyepong, Geoffrey Laws, Anthony Whiteman and Kate Rooney all took part and ensured every sport from figure skating to rhythmic gymnastics was represented.

Melissa Courtney defeats Laura Muir

On to the elite races and it was the women's competition that proved particularly enthralling, with the brilliant Melissa Courtney sprinting down the final straight to retain her title.

The European medalist - who rather awkwardly saw her trophy shattered after the race - fought off the challenge of Laura Muir, who had beaten her in Glasgow just two months ago.

Muir was keen to pass on congratulations to her compatriot and while she was disappointed not to bag the victory, insisted that her focus remained on the World Championships in Doha.

Speaking to GiveMeSport after collecting her medal, the Scot remarked: "I'm reasonably happy, I would have loved to have come away with the win but for me, my target is to be in the best possible shape for Doha.

"I'm happy with enough with today, I think it was about getting things started. I know I could have raced a little bit better, but I've had a hard slog in training and I'm a little bit tired."

Chris O'Hare steals the show

Meanwhile, Chris O'Hare took all the headlines in the men's race, earning the biggest cheer of the afternoon by winning with the first sub-four minute mile in the competition's history.

The 28-year-old has enjoyed a stunning 18 months and the support of the London crowd inspired him to hold off the likes of Jonathan Davies and Elliott Giles down Birdcage Walk.

"It's always tough," O'Hare reflected when asked about the key to his victory. "I knew I had some good training behind me and I knew this field was good, so it definitely pushed me on.

"Ultimately, the main goal was to win the race and I knew I'd be there or thereabouts. My career has always been up and down, so I know how to rally from a tough couple of weeks."

A special weekend in London

Daniel Sidbury was victorious in the elite wheelchair competition, while Steph Twell and Joe Morwood set a world record for a couple holding hands in separate races.

There were also a number of junior runners getting the opportunity to summit the podium in front of their athletics heroes and perhaps even royalty from the Palace windows. 

It was all about the brilliant Courtney and O'Hare on Saturday; now over to the 10k and the stage is set for Farah to produce another memorable day in the capital.

Follow @GMS_Athletics on Twitter for live updates, breaking news and results from the Vitality London 10K tomorrow.

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