On August 1, Raleigh, North Carolina hosts the 1st-ever Sir Walter Miler. It sounds like a great event: parties, fun runs, and a mile race in which the goal is for someone to run a sub-4-minute mile.
It won’t be the 1st time that’s happened there. Forty years ago, former Staples star Steve Wheeler — who went on to a great career at Duke University — blazed to a 3:59.4 in a Raleigh meet. It was the 1st sub-4-minute mile by any Connecticut runner.
That was the exact time Roger Bannister had run 10 years earlier, when he broke the 4-minute barrier.
Wheeler remains one of Westport’s most legendary runners ever.
This month, the Sir Walter Miler website interviewed Wheeler about that great race 4 decades ago.
“I remember it well,” he said. “It was special going under 4 minutes, but my goal was to win, not reach a certain time. I was unaware I had broken 4 until after the race, although I knew it would be close.”
Wheeler — behind for much of the race — “kicked really hard with 250 to go on the back straight. I wasn’t challenged at the finish and probably had a little more in reserve if I had been – but not much!”
Wheeler is now the city manager of Hood River, Oregon — perhaps the most famous state for running in the US.
Asked for advice on breaking 4 minutes, Wheeler said: “Work on both speed and strength. Take care of yourself. Try to stay healthy and injury-free, because consistency of training means a lot.
“And move to Eugene, Oregon. It seems like under-4 happens there almost every week! Living in Oregon, I’ve seen some incredible track performances.”
As did racing fans in Raleigh 40 years ago, thanks to a tall track star from Westport.
(Hat tip to Peter Gambaccini)