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In the sport of athletics, the four-minute mile is the act of completing the mile run (1,760 yards, or 1,609.344 metres) in less than four minutes. It was first achieved in 1954 by Roger Bannister in 3:59.4. The "four-minute barrier" has since been broken by many male athletes, and is now the standard of all male professional middle distance runners. In the last 50 years the mile record has been lowered by almost 17 seconds. Running a mile in four minutes translates to a speed of 15 miles per hour (24.14 km/h, or 2:29.13 per kilometer, or 14.91 seconds per 100 meters).
Breaking the four-minute barrier was first achieved on 6 May 1954, by Englishman Roger Bannister, with the help of fellow-runners as pacemakers. Two months later, during the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games hosted in Vancouver, B.C., two competing runners, Australia's John Landy and Bannister, ran the distance of one mile in under four minutes. The race's end is memorialised in a statue of the two (with Landy glancing over his shoulder, thus losing the race) placed in front of the Pacific National Exhibition entrance plaza.
New Zealand's John Walker, the first man to run the mile under 3:50, managed to run 135 sub-four-minute miles during his career (during which he was the first person to run over 100 sub-four-minute miles), and American Steve Scott has run the most sub-four-minute miles, with 136. Currently, the mile record is held by Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj, who ran a time of 3:43.13 in Rome in 1999.
In 1964, America's Jim Ryun became the first high school runner to break four minutes for the mile, running 3:59.0 as a junior and a then-American record 3:55.3 as a senior in 1965. Tim Danielson (1966) and Marty Liquori (1967) also came in under four minutes, but Ryun's high school record stood until Alan Webb ran 3:53.43 in 2001. Ten years later, in 2011, Lukas Verzbicas became the fifth high schooler under four minutes.
Another illustration of the progression of performance in the men's mile is that in 1994, forty years after Bannister's breaking of the barrier, the Irish runner Eamonn Coghlan became the first man over the age of 40 to run a sub-four-minute mile. Because Coghlan surpassed the mark indoors and before the IAAF validated indoor performances as being eligible for outdoor records, World Masters Athletics still had not recognised a sub-4 minute mile performance as a record in the M40 division. Many elite athletes made the attempts to extend their careers beyond age 40 to challenge that mark. Over 18 years after Coghlan, that was finally achieved by UK's Anthony Whiteman, running 3:58.79 on 2 June 2012.
Some sources (including Olympic medalist Peter Radford) contend the first successful four-minute mile was run in London by James Parrott on 9 May 1770. Parrott's route began on Goswell Road, before turning down Old Street, finishing at St Leonard's, Shoreditch. Although timing methods at this time were – following the invention of the chronometer by John Harrison – accurate enough to measure the four minutes correctly the record is not recognised by modern sporting bodies. Neal Bascomb notes in The Perfect Mile, however, that "even nineteenth-century historians cast a skeptical eye on the account."
In 1988, the ABC and the BBC co-produced The Four Minute Mile, a miniseries dramatisation of the race to the four-minute mile, featuring Richard Huw as Bannister and Nique Needles as John Landy (who was simultaneously pursuing the milestone). It was written by David Williamson and directed by Jim Goddard.
In 2004, Neal Bascomb wrote a book entitled The Perfect Mile about Roger Bannister, John Landy, and Wes Santee portraying their individual attempts to break the four-minute mile and the context of the sport of mile racing. A second film version (entitled Four Minutes) was made in 2005, starring Jamie Maclachlan as Bannister.