The inaugural Monument Mile Classic, held at the University of Stirling Track on Wednesday 13 June, proved to be a night of top class racing despite the dreich Scottish summer weather and with international athletes to the fore in both elite races.
A co-operation between Central Athletic Club and the University of Stirling ensured the event was appropriately licenced via Scottish Athletics and with all places sold out there was a feast of 12 one mile races held throughout the evening covering athletes from Under-13s to Veterans.
There were wins in both the top male and female races for pre-race favourites Mhairi MacLennan of Edinburgh University Hare and Hounds and Ben Greenwood of Perth Strathtay Harriers with each picking up a winner’s cheque of £100.
The evening started with races for the younger athletes with almost all hitting personal bests for the distance: of the 91 finishers, 83 ran personal best for the mile. In the younger age groups Central athlete Amy Cully won the first race in 5 minutes 40.32 seconds followed home by Carys Gibb, 5:48.57, Mirren Henry 5:54.38, Naomi Howlieson 6:21.66, Ellen Montgomery 6:31.71 and Anna Buchanan 6:31.89. The second race saw a mixture of youth and age take to the track with no less than six Central vests on show and Sandy Buchanan in first with 5:26.30, then Euan Docherty 5:46.83, Aaron Middleton 5:55.45, Gareth Marchant 5:59.38, Ross Lawrie 6:05.77 and Kirsten McStay 6:18.83. Oliver Holden achieved a big personal best in running 5:16.26 and Donald Shaw looked pleased with a gutsy 5:25.00 effort. Under-13 runner Connor Bell continues to underline his potential by running 5:18.37 here ahead of Rosie Eckersley 5:31.10, Euan Campbell 5:32.81 and Ruairidh Burns 5:47.52.
Under-15 Angus Wright of Team East Lothian impressed with a 5:03.58 clocking as the excitement grew and the quality increased. Central’s Gregor McArthur posted a 5:08.39 time while Telfer Gray should be pleased with his 4:52.52 effort. The tenth race of the night saw determined front running from Jack Kerr with 4:26.12 bringing him the win from experienced orienteer Chris Smithard 4:29.66 with Lewis Dow 4:31.80, Fraser Logan 4:32.09 and Ruaridh Miller 4:33.99 all posting tasty personal bests.
The elite women’s race saw Mhairi MacLennan and Fife AC’s Jenny Selman take a significant lead from the remainder of the field and Selman fighting hard with Scottish National Cross Country winner MacLennan for 3 laps before MacLennan pushed on to win in 4:54.23 from Selman’s 5:08.16. Race director Michael Wright said: “It was impressive to watch the two athletes go toe to toe for three laps, then Mhairi took off.” Central athlete Lauren McCulloch raced to a personal best of 5:17.93 while Stirling University student Rebecca Craig recorded a fine 5:23.25. The women’s prize fund of £400 for a sub 4:40 mile wasn’t troubled in the wet weather, but the race director was already discussing the possibility of rolling it over for next year to entice more athletes from across the UK to run quick miles at the event.
As the rain grew heavier the elite men took to the track with a quality field assembled and Central’s Aidan Thompson taking responsibility for pace-making. In the difficult conditions the predetermined sub-four minute mile pace slipped to around 2:06 at the half mile point and when Thomson stepped off with just over a lap and a half to go it was Alastair Hay who moved to the front with pre-race favourite Ben Greenwood, Aberdeen AAC’s Michael Ferguson and Central’s Jamie Crowe in close pursuit. With around 250 metres to run Hay put in a significant kick and at the top of the final bend had a lead of around 7 metres. However 800m runner Greenwood did not give up. “As they entered the final straight it still looked like Ali’s race, but somehow Ben was back in contention and surged past in the last 20m,” said Wright. “How Ali didn’t win, I’ll never know.” The 2010 Commonwealth Games athlete certainly made an exciting race of it to the line.
So it was Perth Strathtay’s Ben Greenwood who took the win in 4:10:48, with Central’s Hay a stride behind in 4:10:87. Michael Ferguson was third in 4:14:59 and Jamie Crowe crossed the line in fourth with 4:15.30, yet another personal best, as it was for Dale Colley with 4:26.58. Again the additional prize fund for breaking 4:05 wasn’t touched so can potentially roll over for next year and, hopefully, another anticipated series of great races.
The event looks like one to put on your calendar for 2019 if you’re after a mile personal best or want to see some great Scottish and British racing. Thanks are due to the great support from the University of Stirling, to Michael Wright and his Central AC team and to the squad of Scottish Athletics officials who assisted at the event.
View the full race results here.