Sir Roger Bannister celebrates 60th anniversary at the Vitality Oxford Half Marathon

October 13, 2014 // Rachel Ellis


Sir Roger Bannister officially started the Vitality Oxford Half Marathon in front of thousands of runners today, marking the 60th anniversary year since he famously broke the sub four minute mile in the very same city.

To mark the special anniversary, the Vitality Oxford Half Marathon celebrated all things ‘Bannister’ today by giving runners the unique opportunity to run a timed mile around the Iffley Road University Track where history was made 60 years ago.

After officially starting the race, Sir Roger Bannister commented: “Thousands of runners came out to take part in this year’s race today and what a spectacle it was. What makes it even more special for me is knowing that hundreds of thousands of people right across the UK will have been out running this morning, demonstrating that the sport continues to grow.

“I’m honoured to have an element of the course named after me. The race was fantastically organised and I really enjoyed being part of it during this special year”.

The race was won by David Bruce who lives in Oxford and runs with Highgate Harriers. David ran for the official charity of the Vitality Run Series, Laureus Sport for Good Foundation, finishing in 1hour, 11minutes and 26seconds. Second place went to Ben Beattie who runs with Sheffield’s Hallamshire Harriers.

David commented: “After winning the race in 2012, I was excited to come back and see how I got on this year. The race is getting bigger and bigger each year with noticeable improvements. It was really well marshalled and the bands around the course really gave me an extra boost.

“I had a good run today and I particularly liked the Bannister Mile aspect, which made it stand out from other races. For the first four miles, I ran with the man who came second, working as a team. After this point I pulled away, keeping the lead car in sight to maintain a consistent pace and I’m obviously really pleased with the final result”.

In the women’s race, Kate Niehaus who lives in Oxford but is originally from South Carolina, USA, took poll position, finishing in 1hour, 18minutes and 52 seconds. Second place went to Anneliese West, who finished in 1hour, 24minutes and 17seconds. Hot on her heels in third position was Naomi Dews, finishing in 1hour, 24minutes and 31 seconds.

Kate said: “This was my first ever half marathon and it proved to be a fantastic experience. I study in Oxford so I regularly run in and around the city which made it all the more special being able to run a professionally organised race where I was familiar with the route.

“In the past, I’ve always ran on the track, but the transition from track to road racing has been wonderful and after taking part in, and winning, this great event I will definitely be entering more road races in the future”.

To mark Sir Roger Bannister’s incredible career as a runner, title sponsor of the event, Vitality presented him with a lifetime recognition award before the start of the race today.

Speaking for PruHealth and PruProtect, title sponsors of the Series, Neville Koopowitz, CEO, Vitality commented: “We are delighted with how today’s race went. From Sir Roger receiving his Lifetime Achievement Award ahead of the race, to the final runner crossing the finish line, it was a truly memorable day for all concerned. We believe this half marathon can become one of this country’s standout races and I would like to thank all the organisers for their hard work and members of the public from the Oxfordshire area who turned out to cheer on today’s participants and helped make it such an incredible day. We very much look forward to returning next year.”

As well as a significant local contingent, runners travelled from all corners of the UK to be a part of the 2014 Vitality Oxford Half Marathon.

Rachel Kwok, 25 from London said: “This was my first half marathon and I really enjoyed it. The live music around the course, all from unique and interesting bands, really made for a fantastic atmosphere. Their support combined with the encouragement from the public really helped me get around the 13.1 mile route. As it was my first half, I was really nervous at the start, but finished today with a huge smile on my face”.

In addition to thousands of runners competing in the main event, today also saw hundreds of school children (aged 4-11) taking part in their own half marathon challenge. The first ever Schools’ Challenge driven by MINI Plant Oxford saw children from the area completing 12 miles in the weeks leading up to the race, building up to the finale 1.1 mile event which started and finished in the exact location of the Vitality Oxford Half Marathon.

Andrew Taylor, Race Director for the Vitality OXFORDHALF commented on today’s event: “We are delighted with the success of this year’s race. From the addition of the Bannister Mile, to the superb Battle of the Bands line up around the course and the opportunity to inspire the next generation via the Schools’ Challenge driven by MINI, the day has seen a great atmosphere all round.”

“We’d like to thank all the event team, volunteers and sponsors for working so amazingly hard, as they do every year to make the event a success. Of course the event was made special by the thousands of people who have taken part, pushed themselves to the limit and raised a lot of money for charity, along with the spectators and live bands right around the route who create such a buzzing atmosphere. They make the event what it is and we thank them for their support.”

The Vitality Oxford Half Marathon is part of the Vitality Run Series, a new national series of eight leading UK road races including the Vitality Bath Half Marathon.

Entries for the 2015 race will open shortly at www.oxfordhalf.co.uk.