The British Mile

When Sir Roger Bannister became the first person to run a mile under four minutes, in 1954, he was physically spent from the effort…and I believe I know why. You see, he actually ran a mile and then some. How far did he exceed the intended distance? My recent experiences walking the Dales Way can perhaps shed light on this.

For starters, the Dales Way, like most of England’s fine walking paths, is supported by a host of maps and guide books, varying in details and (here’s the key) distances. Thus I’d read that the walk would be anywhere from 74 to 84 miles long. Being curious, I purchased a Silva pedometer watch for the trip and calibrated my stride on a quarter-mile track…just like the one Sir Roger thought he was running on. The watch proved accurate to a thousandth of a mile.

The technical was augmented by the personal once we began walking, by friendly people each willing to indicate how far we had to go to get to our next location. I was careful to stop the pedometer whenever we left the “official” route, and at days end I jotted the mileage in a notebook. It became apparent very quickly that someone…some thing…was errant. Six-point-three from here-to-here would be “8.2” and so it went until, sitting on the stone bench overlooking Lake Windermere at the Ways’ end, we’d covered 101 miles! Eighty-one, you say?

After factoring this evidence together I am able to offer here an equation and a fairly unreliable means to calculate any walking distance in Great Britain:

It’s about (x) miles from here” + 24.9% = Approximate Distance to Walk, Hopefully.


2 thoughts on “The British Mile”

  1. When we do it in July we will be taking a GPS that records milage walked, so we’ll see if our account tallies with yours.Just out of interest, how steep were the hills?

  2. I’ll be very interested in hearing how the GPS measures the trail, I rechecked my pedo watch and still found it accurate here on a quarter-mile track. As for hills, not bad at all. Most of the Way is level, with only a scattered amount of climbing; it was more difficult on the knees descending down from Camm Farm, where the path intersects the Pennine Way, than any ascending we did. Short pitches, nothing prolonged, and fine scenery almost the entire route.

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