60 years later, Miracle Mile still resonates with Keffri Neal
NCAA runner will be part of the Miracle Mile tribute race at Harry Jerome track meet, 60 years after the epic 1954 event at Empire Stadium
University of Kentucky runner and 2011 Head of the Class member Keffri Neal will be running at the Harry Jerome track meet, and will be participating in the Miracle Mile tribute race on Thursday.
Photograph by: Ric Ernst , PROVINCE
Keffri Neal is all of 21 years old and he can speak eloquently about Roger Bannister and John Landy and their duel at the 1954 British Empire Games at Empire Stadium.
The four-minute mile has that kind of meaning, even 60 years later.
“Everyone still talks about the four-minute mile at the college level,” said Neal, a Surrey native who just wrapped up his junior year with the University of Kentucky track team and will be one of the competitors for the Miracle Mile tribute that’s part of the Harry Jerome Track Classic on Thursday at Swangard Stadium.
“Maybe not as much at the pro level, but at the college level they do. People have done it, but not that many.”
The story is well known. Bannister broke the four-minute barrier first, Landy bettered the standard six weeks later. Vancouver brought the head-to-head matchup. Both went under four minutes again. Bannister, surging past Landy on the right while Landy was looking left, won the race in the late stages.
A bronze statue at the PNE pays homage to the moment.
“That’s where it all started,” Neal said.
Where has it gone since? A couple of different ways. American Steve Scott ran 136 four-minute miles in his career. The 3:43.13 that Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj clocked on July 7, 1999, remains the world record.
The mile also isn’t contested as much as it once was, either, what with the push toward the metric system helping turn the 1,500 metres (slightly shorter than a mile) into the middle-distance race of choice.
There’s still an impact. To steal a line from Harry Jerome meet organizer Doug Clement, more people have climbed Mount Everest than have run a mile in under four minutes in competition.
He gets the history. He’s invested. Clement, 80, who was part of a silver medal 4X440 relay Canadian track team at those 1954 British Empire Games, insists that Thursday’s meet has a “mile field which should crash the four-minute barrier with force,” and pledges “we are hoping to see more than one Canadian under four minutes.”
Nate Brannen, 31, of Cambridge, Ont., could be one. He’s slated to take part Thursday and he won a mile in Nashville in June in 3:55.65. There’s also White Rock’s Luc Bruchet, 23, who won a mile indoors at the University of Washington with a 3:57.71 earlier this year.
Neal also hopes to be in the hunt. He ran a 4:04.04 mile indoors for Kentucky this college season. He’s an 800m specialist. He came in second in that distance at the nationals in Moncton last month, his 1:46.91 leaving him behind only the 1:46.69 put up by Brandon McBride of Windsor, Ont.
He was third in the 800 at the NCAA championships in Oregon earlier in June, checking in with a 1:46.39. McBride, who goes to Mississippi State, won with a 1:46.26.
“The 800 and the mile are different. The 800 is a full-out race, the mile has a lot of strategy involved,” said Neal. “You could go out slow in a mile, but I don’t think we will at the Jerome, because there’s a rabbit. (Renowned pacemaker Matt Scherer, an American, is on the start list.) I do want to try to stick with the quicker guys.”
Bryan Onstad, who is Neal’s coach locally, says he’s not worried about an adjustment.
“Keffri is not a speed-oriented 800 runner, but an endurance-based runner,” said Onstad, who added that Neal’s training this year has been distance oriented, with consistent 110-kilometre weeks.
WHEN AND WHERE
The Harry Jerome International Track Classic goes Thursday at Swangard Stadium in Burnaby.
It starts at 5:40 p.m. and wraps up with the men’s Miracle Mile at 8:45 p.m. For more information, head to at harryjerome.com.