The athletics fraternity will finally get to celebrate Whanganui, Sir Peter Snell, Cooks Gardens and what all three bring to the global mile.

The Whanganui Sports Heritage Trust, in conjunction with Athletics Wanganui, will host the inaugural Sir Peter Snell International Track Meet at Cooks Gardens on Saturday, March 2 after the event was postponed last year.

Sports Heritage Trust co-ordinator Russell Sears said the March event had Oceania Athletics area permit approval which gave athletes the ability to gain important IAAF ranking points.

The One Mile Championship event will take centre stage, closely followed by the men's 800m race.


"Both distances are synonymous with Sir Peter Snell, who was essentially an 800m runner until he stepped up to the mile. In fact, Snell still holds the New Zealand record for the 800m (1.44.3)," Sears said.

Snell, of course, famously made Cooks Gardens a global household name when he lowered the world mile record by a tenth of a second in Whanganui on January 27, 1962 and one week later set new world records for both the 800m and 880 yards (804.7 m) at Christchurch.

Sears said the March meet would also reinstate the One Mile Championship, which had undergone numerous name changes since its first running at Cooks Gardens in 1898 as part of the New Zealand Championships.

"We want to reinstate the One Mile Championship name and make this event an annual sanctioned fixture at Cooks Gardens."

The March 2 mile has attracted a field that includes several athletes well capable of adding to the sub four minute tally at Cooks Gardens.

To date 41 athletes have cracked four minutes on 63 occasions since Snell in 1962, including the likes of British Olympian Mo Farrah.

This year Eric Speakman from Napier will lead the charge. Speakman is the last man to run a sub four at Cooks when finishing third to Nick Willis and Hamish Carson in 2016 when clocking 3m 57.30.

Exciting Tauranga youngster Samuel Tanner is also in the field. The up and coming middle distance 18-year-old is the star of recent Classic Series. His best time for 1500m is 3m 43.01s at Cooks Classic when finishing third behind Nick Willis and Julian Oakley.
That time translates to being right on the cusp of a sub four minute mile.


Canberra-based Kiwi Simon Rogers ran a 3m 43s 1500m in Canberra recently. HIs father Tony broke 4 minutes for mile at Cooks three times.

"Should he manage it they could be the first father and son to break 4 minutes at Cooks. The Willis brothers (Steve and Nick) both broken four minutes," Sears said.

Jordan Gusman from Melbourne has won the Albie Thomas Mile in Sydney three times, his best mile time of 3m 57.29s. Albie Thomas was third in Snell's Mile in 1962.

Rorey Hunter from Canberra won the NZ 3000m championship at the recent Capital Classic in 7m 53.41s. He has a best mile time of 3m 58.59s.

The stadium record for one mile at Cooks is 3m 52.75s held by Nick Willis and set in 2006.

The 800m event takes on even more mana with hometown athlete Brad Mathas returning from his Melbourne base in the hope of qualifying for the World Championships in Doha in August.

The former Cullinane athlete, who has won seven consecutive New Zealand 800m titles and two U18 800m titles, needs to run 1m 45.80s to qualify for the New Zealand team to the 2019 World Athletic Championships to be held in Doha in August. He has a best 800m time of 1m 46.07s.

Wellingtonian James Preston is ranked 2nd New Zealand 800m runner with a best time of 1m 47.76s.

The stadium record for 800m is 1m 46.72s by Shaun Farrell (Canterbury) in 1998.