Triangle running fanatics hoping to see a group of athletes run a mile in less than four minutes will get their chance this weekend.
The fourth annual Sir Walter Miler is set to take place Friday night at Meredith College in Raleigh, with the women’s elite race starting at 9:05 p.m. and the men’s elite race starting at 9:20 p.m. Fans will be allowed to stand on the track outside lane 5 and in the infield for the elite races to cheer to get close to the action.
The precursor to the event was the Sandman Mile in 2013, when Sandy Roberts wanted a chance to break four minutes in the mile for the first time after graduating from N.C. State. Since then, the Sir Walter Miler has grown every year, with nine men breaking four minutes in 2016 and six women breaking 4:30.
“In 2014 when we started it, nobody had run under four minutes in the mile in Raleigh in 40 years,” said Pat Price, who organizes the Sir Walter Miler with brothers Sandy and Logan Roberts. “We try to hold four or five spots in each of the elite races every year for people that have not broken four minutes on the men’s side or 4:30 on the women’s side to give them an opportunity.”
Moroccan runner Hicham El Guerrouj set the current world record in the mile with a time of 3:43.13 in 1999, and Alan Webb holds the American record at 3:46.91. Professional runners generally do not get many chances to challenge these records because most high-level meets have a 1,500-meter run instead of a mile run.
This year’s Sir Walter races will feature former N.C. State runners Andrew Colley, Graham Crawford, Luis Vargas, Craig Engels and Megan Moye and former Duke athlete Kate Van Buskirk.
There will be more than $21,000 available in prize money, with $5,100 guaranteed to be split among the top finishers and the rest handed out based on time incentives. The first athlete to run faster than 4:22.00 in the women’s race or 3:51.10 in the men’s race – the midway point between the American record and the Sir Walter Miler meet record – will receive $3,000.
Race day will start with a pre-party at the Raleigh Brewing Company at 6 p.m., and the first event at the track will be the Raleigh Denim Mile at 8:15. It is open to the public for a $25 entry fee until the end of the day Thursday, and the only rule is that runners have to wear blue jeans.
Local running clubs will then compete in two heats of a 4-x-400 relay beginning at 8:30 p.m., and the track will open for spectators at 8:45 p.m.
Price said 2,500 people attended last year’s Sir Walter Miler in the rain and is expecting 3,000-4,000 this year. He recommended that fans get there early and stand near one of the two entrances to the track to get a good spot for the elite races and discouraged jumping over the fence.
“The opportunity for people to be able to stand on the inside of the track really has appealed to people, something you don’t see at your standard track meet, so we’re offering something a little bit different,” Price said. “The races have always been fast, so nationally, beyond Raleigh, people are excited about it.”
After the races, some of the runners will join fans back at the Raleigh Brewing Company for a post-party at 9:45.
Sir Walter Miler
Where: Meredith College track
When: Friday at 8:15 p.m.; Elite races start at 9:05 p.m.
Cost of admission: Free