In the footsteps of greatness

Yesterday, I had to be in Oxford at lunchtime. The Dude was at a football camp as it’s the Easter hols so I was free in the morning and I finally got to do something I’d wanted to do for ages – I ran at the track where Sir Roger Bannister first broke the 4-minute mile in 1954.

iffley road
Badly placed lamp stand

I’ve ranted before about the lack of running tracks available for public use here in the UK – well, this historic place is open to runners of all abilities, which is wonderful. I have a race on Sunday so when I asked my coach what I could do on the track, he told me to keep it short – three 1km repeats at roughly 8 min miles, followed by some strides. Nothing crazy. But I had a plan and I was all set.

Thursday dawned like a little ball of beauty. The rain has been relentless for a few weeks now but somehow the skies were blue, the sun was shining, there was a hint of warmth in the air. I drove up to Oxford like a giant weight of grey skies had been lifted off me. It was a perfect day to run some track.

The Iffley Road Track is now the Oxford University Track. The new building is simple but attractive and everyone there was really friendly. The gentleman on reception asked me if I’d run there before – I said no and that I was a bit excited, and he looked up and smiled at me as if he totally understood!!


It cost me just under £5 to get in – I don’t know how long I could have stayed but my gut feel is that I could have stayed all day unless another group was booked in. Apparently during the daytime it’s generally available. The changing rooms were clean but not fancy at all – there were no lockers, I was advised to take my bag out with me. So, clutching my bag, I stepped out the door and onto the track of history.

iffley track

The track nowadays is a standard running track, not the cinder track on which Sir Rog made history. But I honestly got chills as I walked onto the lanes and put my bag in the stands. I had the whole place to myself and I was buzzing.


I did a two-mile warm up, cruising round the lanes with a giant grin on my face. Being cheesy, I put the Chariots of Fire music on and I got the shivers again as I trudged round.

The three kilometer-repeats went really well. It was such a delight to run on a track again and on THIS track in particular – I just ran those kilometers at the pace my coach had set for me and they felt so good.

me track iffley happy

For the final rep, I put Chariots of Fire back on my earphones and set off for the final push. It was totally surreal – I got the feeling I was flying for a few moments and when I looked down at my Garmin, I was doing 6.30. I have NEVER seen a 6 on my Garmin before, so that was quite exciting 🙂 I slowed down though, I knew that was unsustainable.

Once I’d done my repeats and my cool down, I went back inside and got lunch at the little cafe and fangirled at the Roger Bannister quotes on the walls. As I left, the guy on reception asked me how my run had gone. I told him it had gone well and he said that I’d looked fast. I wasn’t fast, especially not on this track, but I got this lovely sense of camaraderie – that this was a special place for people who loved running. He made my day.

I have to be in Oxford again in a few weeks…I think I’ll go back!


9 Comments Add yours

  1. NicJ says:

    Dah dah dah dah dah dahhhhh, dah dah dah dah dahhhhhhhh! Brilliant!
    Good luck for your race on Sunday! Which one are you doing? I’ll be toddling around the Highworth 5 so will think of you! Xx

  2. Cathryn says:

    Doing the Salisbury 10 … you’re guaranteed a PR as you run fast away from the novichok 🙂 Good luck on Sunday. I miss you, let’s catch up x

    1. NicJ says:

      Good luck on the 10 – run like the wibd Bullseye! You’ll rock it!
      Definitely need to get a catch up booked in – will drop you a line! Xx

  3. Mike says:

    “Chariots of Fire,” ha that’s awesome, the image cracks me up. But what an amazing opportunity! I’d LOVE to pay a visit to Dr. Bannister’s old stomping grounds whenever we make it to London, and like you I’m sure I’d get goosebumps just stepping onto the track. Thanks for planting the seed in my brain, and good luck in Salisbury!

  4. Angela says:

    Cool! I totally forgot that that happened in Oxford. That’s a much nicer track than most of the ones I’ve run on — shaded seats, changing rooms, & everything!

    1. Cathryn says:

      It was pretty lovely. You should come and run on it…

  5. BT says:

    What a great experience! (and congrats on the 6!) I’m definitely adding this one to my (infinitely long) wish list. I’d love to run there one day.

    1. Cathryn says:

      Better book some flights…

  6. Jen says:

    Can we put this on the itinerary for London 2019?

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