When Sandy Roberts came close to running a sub-4 minute mile last August, he admits he was a bit disappointed.
“I would’ve liked to be at or closer to four minutes,” said the former North Carolina State and Broughton High standout, whose official time of 4:06 was nearly five seconds slower than his personal best of 4:01.24.
On Aug. 1, Roberts will step on the track to take another shot at breaking that barrier in the inaugural Sir Walter Miler. A more organized and official version of last summer’s “ Sandman Mile,” the Sir Walter Miler will pit Roberts against other elite runners in a 1600-meter race at the Meredith College Track.
The night will be about more than just running, though. The event kicks off at 7 p.m. with a pre-race party at nearby Raleigh Brewing Company, with live music, giveaways and food trucks. The trio of race organizers, which includes Roberts, his brother (and trainer) Logan, and race director Pat Price, aim to attract a mix of runners and non-runners.
“We want to have a high intensity 45 minutes: loud music, high energy,” Logan Roberts said.
The Sir Walter Miler will be not only feature a men’s race, but also a women’s race, aimed at breaking the 4:30 mark. There will also be a “Raleigh’s Finest” mile, with representatives from Triangle running clubs and local celebrities, including former mayor Charles Meeker, competing. The group has also contacted Nicholas Sparks and Clay Aiken in the hopes that they will participate, although they say they have been unable to reach them thus far.
Price says an expected field of 10competitors in the men’s race will help push Roberts. Last year, he had only his brother, who ran for Baylor University, to pace him through the first two laps. Despite the hundreds of fans who came out on just a few days’ notice to support him, the task of finishing the race alone proved too difficult.
“[Running the last half alone] is basically unheard of,” Roberts said. This time around, Price and the Roberts brothers have brought in several elite runners to take on the challenge, including University of Virginia All-American Sean Keveren and Matt Elliot, known as the “Fastest Kindergarten Teacher in America.”
Finishing a mile in under four minutes is a significant milestone. Only 404 Americans have accomplished the feat since the British medical student Roger Bannister first achieved it in 1954. If Roberts pulls it off, he will become the first person in Raleigh to break the four-minute barrier since Steve Wheeler ran it in 3:59.4 in 1974.
“It’s a challenge but I think that this year we’re poised and ready to make a real attempt at it,” Roberts said. “And I hope to be a part of history and a real exclusive club.”
The trio wants to make the Sir Walter Miler an annual race. And to make it more than just a race, they have organized a series of events surrounding it, including a dinner at Busy Bee Café the night before, pre- and post-race parties at Raleigh Brewing Company, and a trail run at Umstead Park the morning after.
On Wednesday, the group’s Kickstarter campaign reached its goal of $3,000 to cover expenses. Now, Price and the Roberts brothers are focused on the event itself.
“We’re just thrilled that we can share this sport with so many people,” Logan Roberts said. “The theme of the night is going to be the party.”