Mow Cop Killer Mile – 16th May 2024

by Brad Wight

You may remember I entered this race last year, it’s a famous old race on the border of Cheshire and Staffordshire dating back to the early 1980s. It was intended to be the opposite of New York City’s slightly downhill Fifth Avenue Mile which attracts the best milers in the world. The Killer Mile is a road race, exactly a mile long, but up a ridiculously steep hill with gradients ranging from 12% to 25% and 550 feet of elevation. Last year I said it was the hardest race I’ve ever ran and I haven’t changed my mind.

My aim this year was to get under the ten minute mark, having ran 10:02 in my first race. That might sound slow but when you consider the course record is 6:12 and that was set by a sub four minute miler who represented Team GB at the 1500m it gives you an idea of how hard it is.
The start was delayed due to an issue with the numbers at registration but because the start line is a level crossing on the West Coast Mainline the organisers had to check timetables and get permission from Network Rail to push it back around 20 mins. Not a problem may race directors have to contend with I guess.

Knowing what was in store I decided to set off much slower than last time and try to average seven minute mile pace for the first quarter mile which is only a 12% gradient. Like Mike Tyson said, “everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth”… By the end of that first quarter mile my heart rate was up to 200 bpm and I was seriously questioning my life choices. In the forefront of my mind was the video of last year’s race showing the winner (a very good feel runner) prancing up the steepest part of the hill on his tip toes with really good form while myself and the majority of others limped along, looking and sounding like extras from the Walking Dead. I tried my hardest to remain focused on maintaining good form as much as I could but there was one 25% section where this just wasn’t possible and pretty much the entire field resorted to power hiking for what seemed like an eternity but in reality was probably around 20 seconds or so.

I kept looking at my watch and was fully aware that if I wanted to dip under ten minutes I had to keep moving and get back on my toes. I used so much energy going up the hill that my usual sprint finish deserted me, my arms and legs were totally flooded with lactic acid and I felt as if I was in danger of falling over in the final 200m. I almost blacked out at one point but recovered and dragged myself over the finish line in a time of 09:25. Job done!

Regarding the course record, an Ethiopian from Birchfield Harriers travelled from Birmingham in an attempt to claim the £2,000 prize money for anyone who could beat Bashir Hussain’s 1991 time of 6:12. He looked and sounded extremely confident on the start line but the mid race photographs from the 1:4 gradient section say it all. He won the race in 6:47, a long way off the bonus prize money. There’s always next year if anyone fancies a go? It’s only a mile…

I came 26th out of 178 in the affiliated club runners race, 6th V40 and first for Crook ha ha. In total 668 runners took part across various club runs, fun runs and junior races, all on the same course. It’s quite an event and I wish we had something similar round here!