The meet in Oxford was Bannister’s first in eight months, and he had been training seriously for six of them. As the year went on, he would face far stiffer competition, but with Brasher (later an Olympic steeplechase champion) and Chataway (later the world record holder at 5,000 meters) enlisted as his supporting cast, he chose May 6 1954 and the familiar Iffley Road track, where he’d run as an Oxford man himself, as the time and place for his assault on the four-minute mark.
Paced by Chataway and Brasher and powered by an explosive kick, his signature, Bannister ran a mile in under four minutes — 3:59.4, to be exact — becoming the first man ever to do so, breaking through a mystical barrier and creating a seminal moment in sports history.
The roar of the crowd drowned out the rest.
We cross the northern Chilterns aspects to reach Woburn Safari park and Woburn. We then join a rolling ridgeline through the Vale of Aylesbury to Oxford. We visit the Iffley Road stadium where the four minute mile was broken. We can enjoy lunch here. Retracing our steps a little we then turn south and east towards Princes Risborough where we cross the Chilterns once more via Chesham, to Kings Langley. From there we continue east into south Hertfordshire before turning north and home.
We take advantage of a couple of cycling greenways, the first one is paved with sections of all weather fine smooth gravel, the second one is entirely paved. Both are suitable for a road bike on 25mm tyres.
The event uses commercial controls with a cafe start, and pub finish.
- Brevet de Randonneur (BR): under Audax UK regulations
- Start: Fairlands Valley, Stevenage
- Date Scheduled: Saturday 21st September 2019 07:30 am
- Finish By: Saturday 21st September 2019 09:50 pm
- Distance: 215km
- Ascent: 2000m
- Min Elapsed: 7 hours 10 mins (30km/h)
- Max Elapsed: 14 hours 20 mins (15km/h)
- Sunrise: 6:46am
- Sunset: 6:59pm
Whilst faster riders may complete the event entirely in daylight; it is suggested to bring lights in case of unexpected delays or mechanicals.
Please note this event is run under Audax UK regulations and there will be no directional signage, sag wagon or rescue for riders. A GPX track of the event route, with control locations marked, and a routesheet, will be provided to entrants.
Entrants are expected to be self sufficient and responsible for their own safety and navigation. Please look out for other riders who may be in need of assistance.
The event starts from the main car park in Fairlands Valley Park, Six Hills Way, Stevenage SG2 0BL. There is plenty of free parking.
Heading from the car park (along the road) into the park you will reach Costello's cafe. The cafe may be open if there are enough entrants to justify them opening early. Details on this will be communicated nearer the event date.
The event will hopefully inspire you to break through barriers, ones perhaps you think are beyond you. This will be your four minute mile, audax style.
The route crosses the northern reach of the Chilterns, to get the legs warmed up, before dropping down to Woburn Safari Park to Woburn, our first control stop. There is a choice of shops to restock your food and water, including a hotel serving breakfasts till 10am. Collect your receipt and onwards to Long Crendon.
We now enter wooded lanes and take a south westerly run along a ridgeline through the Vale of Aylesbury. The ridgeline gently undulates with views opening to your left and right. At Long Crendon it is time to restock your food and water and collect your receipt at the village shop.
We continue along the ridgeline, with one or two long climbs and descents, before dropping down to Oxford. If you look to the south you will see the Chiltern hills you will cross on your return.
We pick up a quiet route past meadows as we enter Oxford and head to the Iffley Road Stadium cafe. Time to soak up the history, for you are now at the location where the four minute mile barrier was broken by Roger Bannister back in 1954. You are also at the halfway point of your ride.
Time to enjoy some lunch, maybe sandwiches or cake?
From here we retrace our route back to Shabbington, before turning south and east towards Thame. At Thame we pickup up the Phoenix Trail greenway, a mix of traffic free paved and fine gravel sections suitable for a road bike. We are deposited all too soon at the foot of the Chilterns near Princes Risborough.
Below: an optional short extension to the greenway on slightly rougher gravel. A shorter but slower option than the road at this point, with little difference in time. Only to be recommended if dry and you would like a bit more gravel riding.
From here we rejoin the climbing up into the Chilterns. At the end of the first introductory climb you turn left into Wardrobes Lane. A bench here may tempt you to sit and take in whence you just came, the ridgeway on the horizon being your route to Oxford.
A brief respite and then more climbing up through the wooded glades and banked roads that are a feature of the Chilterns.
The pattern continues with a series of climbs, gentle undulations, descents and repeat. Pretty villages are passed through and views open out left, right, and ahead. The scents of the woodland and wild flowers will caress your senses, the dappled light will filter through the trees, and your hearing will be atuned to the bird song. Soon enough we drop into the valley bottom leading to Great Missenden and enjoy spinning our legs without effort.
Through a couple of under passes and a stiff climb on a traffic free cycle track leads out of Missenden. You will need a low gear, well I did! Beware if it is raining, or leaves coat the path. You may want to consider walking the steepest bit if this is the case. Please give others space as the track is narrow. It is no more than 300m, before it eases again, if you have to walk a little.
Onwards to Chesham our fourth control. Here you may choose to sit in a cafe or visit Waitrose to restock. Don't forget your receipt.
It is a stiff climb out of Chesham, hope your legs are still working. But do not worry it eases soon enough and you can make some speed up. Before long you will start to see signs for Hemel Hempstead and that you are approaching Hertfordshire. Turn right, up Venus Hill you go. On to Chipperfield then drop down to Kings Langley. A Texaco garage and Londis to stock up if you need. Then up the hill to Benson.
By the church, right into Sergehill lane, then onto Ragged Hall lane. Hopefully you are not feeling too ragged, you have the steepest and longest hills behind you now.
Under the M1 and onto St Albans. Into quiet side streets and onto the Greenway Ring. You can now follow a paved greenway all the way to the other side of Hatfield.
Exiting the greenway we turn for Welwyn Garden City where we skirt round the outside to reach our fifth control. Will it be the pub or will it be the COOP or the ATM? Receipt and onwards after enjoying a snack on the plentiful benches.
Back out into the countryside and onwards to Tewin. A couple of pleasant pubs here, now only 30 mins from finishing. The Plume of Feathers serve hot food till 9pm. This is not a control stop, and you will need to keep an eye on the time.
A gentle climb out of Tewin and turn north for Datchworth, past its church and now the final descent to the finish.
The pub finish
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