Four-minute mile

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Blue plaque recording the first ever sub-four-minute mile run by Roger Bannister on 6 May 1954 at Oxford University's Iffley Road Track.

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.[1] 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.[2] 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).


Record holders

Breaking the four-minute barrier was first achieved on May 6, 1954, by Roger Bannister. 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 memorialized 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.

Current mile world record holder Hicham El Guerrouj (left) at the start of a race

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.[3] 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.[4] Ten years later, in 2011, Lukas Verzbicas became the fifth high schooler under four minutes.[5]

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.[6] Because Coughlan surpassed the mark indoors and before the IAAF validated indoor performances as being eligible for outdoor records, World Masters Athletics still had not recognized 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 Coughlan, that was finally achieved by UK's Anthony Whiteman, running 3:58.79 on June 2, 2012.[7]

No woman has yet run a four-minute mile: the current women's world record is held by retired Russian Svetlana Masterkova, with a time of 4:12.56 in 1996.[8]

In 1997, Daniel Komen of Kenya ran two miles in less than eight minutes, doubling up on Bannister's accomplishment.[9]

Earlier claim

Some sources (notably Olympic medallist Peter Radford[10]) contend the first successful four-minute mile was run in London by James Parrott on 9 May 1770.[11] 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, and sporting authorities of the time accepted the claim as genuine, the record is not recognized by modern sporting bodies.[12]

It is also reputed that Glenn Cunningham achieved a four-minute mile in a workout. In addition to being unsubstantiated, a workout run would not count as a record.[13]

Popular culture

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.

A second film version (entitled Four Minutes) was made in 2005, starring Jamie MacLachlan as Bannister.

In June 2011 the watch used to time the original event was donated by Jeffrey Archer to a charity auction in aid of Oxford University Athletics Club and sold for £97,250.[14]

See also

Notes and references

  1. ^ "Sports: Bannister stuns world with 4-minute mile". 17 December 1999. Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  2. ^ "Most Popular". CNN. 8 May 2000. 
  3. ^ "Ryun's mile record is history; high schooler Alan Webb hits 3:53.43". 15 March 2007. Retrieved 4 March 2012. 
  4. ^ "High School Records—Boys". Track & Field News. 
  5. ^ Bill Carey (11 June 2011). "Verzbicas breaks four-minute mile". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  6. ^ Dan Giesen (20 April 1996). "Scott Sets New Goals As He Turns 40". San Francisco Chronicle. 
  7. ^ "Music City Distance Carnival- Complete Results - Tennessee Runner". Retrieved 2012-08-13. 
  8. ^ "Landmarks". International Association of Athletics Federations. 
  9. ^ "World Records and Best Performances: Men's Track & Field". Athletics Weekly. Retrieved 11 June 2011. 
  10. ^ Radford, Peter (2 May 2004). "The Time a Land Forgot". The Guardian (London).,10083,1207844,00.html. 
  11. ^ "The first four-minute mile". East London History. 2004. Archived from the original on 8 April 2007. Retrieved 11 May 2007. 
  12. ^ Radford, Peter (6 May 2004). "Runners of Old are Hard to Beat". Edinburgh Evening News. 
  13. ^ Kiell, Paul (2006). American Miler: The Life and Times of Glenn Cunningham. Breakaway Books. pp. 93–94. ISBN 1-891369-59-8. 
  14. ^ White, Belinda (28 June 2011). "Margaret Thatcher's handbag sells for £25,000". Retrieved 4 March 2012. 

External links