Four-minute mile

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In the sport of athletics, the four-minute mile is the running of a mile (exactly 1,609.344 meters, 5280 feet) in less than four minutes. It was first achieved in 1954 by Roger Bannister in 3:59.04.[1] The 'four minute barrier' has since been broken by many male athletes, and is now the standard of all 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. The average human male runs between 6 and 11 miles per hour.


Record holders

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 Hicham El Guerrouj, who ran a time of 3:43.13 in Rome in 1999.

In 1964, 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] The high school record stood until Alan Webb ran 3:53.43 in 2001.[4]

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 age 40 to run a sub-four-minute mile.[5]

No woman has yet run a four-minute mile: the current women's record holder is by retired Russian Svetlana Masterkova, with a time of 4:12.56 in 1996.[6]

In 1997, Daniel Komen of Kenya ran two miles in less than eight minutes, doubling up on Bannister's accomplishment.[1][7]

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.

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