A four-minute mile is the completion of a mile run (1.6 km) in four minutes or less. It translates to a speed of 15 miles per hour (24 km/h).[1] It is a standard of professional middle distance runners in several cultures.

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

The first four-minute mile is usually attributed to the English athlete Roger Bannister, who ran it in 1954 at age 25, in 3:59.4.[2] The mile record has since been lowered by 16.27 seconds. As of June 2022, the "four-minute barrier" has been broken by 1,755 athletes.[3] The record for the fastest time stands at 3:43.13, achieved by the Moroccan athlete Hicham El Guerrouj, at age 24, in 1999.[4][5]

Record holders

Bannister and Landy racing in Vancouver, August 1954
Current mile world record holder Hicham El Guerrouj (left) at the start of a race

On 30 October 1863, William Lang ran a downhill mile time trial in 4:02 in Newmarket, Suffolk, England.[6][7] Due to the downhill slope, the time would not have been valid for record-keeping but nonetheless would be the fastest mile ever run until 1943, and began speculation about when the first sub-four-minute mile would be performed.[8][9]

The four-minute barrier was first broken on 6 May 1954 at Oxford University's Iffley Road Track, by British athlete Roger Bannister,[10] with the help of fellow runners Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher as pacemakers.[11]

On 21 June 1954, at an international meet at Turku, Finland, Australia's John Landy became the second man, after Bannister, to achieve a sub-4-minute mile. He achieved a world record time of 3:57.9, ratified by the IAAF as 3:58.0 owing to the rounding rules then in effect. He held this record for more than three years.[12]

Two months later, on 7 August, during the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games hosted in Vancouver, B.C., Landy and Bannister both ran the distance of one mile in under four minutes. The race's end is memorialised in a photo, and later a statue, of the two, with Landy looking over his left shoulder, just as Bannister is passing him on the right. Landy thus lost the race. The statue was placed in front of the Pacific National Exhibition entrance plaza.[13] Bannister won in 3 min 58.8 s, with Landy 0.8 s behind in 3 min 59.6 s.

New Zealand's John Walker, who with a 3:49.4 performance in August 1975 became the first man to run the mile under 3:50, ran 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. Algeria's Noureddine Morceli was the first under 3:45. 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.[14] 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.[15] Ten years later, in 2011, Lukas Verzbicas became the fifth high-schooler under four minutes.[16] In 2015, Matthew Maton and Grant Fisher became the sixth and seventh high-schoolers to break four minutes, both running 3:59.38 about a month apart.[17] Webb was the first high schooler to run sub-4 indoors, running 3:59.86 in early 2001. On 6 February 2016, Andrew Hunter significantly improved upon Webb's mark, running 3:58.25 on the same New York Armory track[18] and 3:57.81 two weeks later.[19] Hunter achieved the 4-minute mile mark outdoors later in the season at the Prefontaine Classic. At that same meet Michael Slagowski ran his second sub-4-minute of the season.[20] Reed Brown dipped under the barrier on 1 June 2017, running the 4th fastest high school mile time ever recorded in a race: 3:59.30.[21] In 2020, Leo Daschbach clocked 3:59.54 during the Quarantine Clasico, moving to ninth on the all time list.[22][23]

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.[24] 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.[25]

In 1997, Daniel Komen of Kenya ran two miles in less than eight minutes, doubling up on Bannister's accomplishment.[26] He did it again in February 1998, falling just 0.3 seconds behind his previous performance of 7:58.61. On 9 June 2023, Norwegian runner Jakob Ingebrigtsen bested that time, running 7:54.10 to become only the second individual to run two miles in less than eight minutes.

Ingebrigtsen also holds the record as the youngest runner to run a four-minute mile, having run 3:58.07 at the Prefontaine Classic in May 2017, when he was 16 years and 250 days old.[27] However, indoor world champion Yomif Kejelcha of Ethiopia, born 1 August 1997, ran 4:57.74 in an indoor 2000 m race on 28 February 2014, at age 16 years and 212 days.[28][29] The run averages to a pace of 3:59.58 per mile for the 1.24-mile race.



No woman has yet run a four-minute mile. The women's world record is currently at 4:07.64, set by Faith Kipyegon of Kenya at the Diamond League meeting in Monaco on 21 July 2023.[30] An earlier women's world record, 4:12.56 set by Svetlana Masterkova of Russia on 14 August 1996 at Zürich, stood for almost 23 years: Masterkova became the first woman to run the mile in less than 4 minutes and 15 seconds.

Kipyegon's run has led some to speculate that the first women's sub-four minute mile may come within the 21st century.[31] Some organizations such as the Fast Forest project have considered the 4:30 minute mile barrier to be a roughly equivalent benchmark for women, though there are fewer women's sub-4:30 runners than there are men's sub-4:00 runners.[32][33]

Possible other claims


A number of people have claimed to have beaten the four-minute mile before Bannister.

James Parrott (1770)


Some (notably Olympic medallist Peter Radford)[34] contend the first successful four-minute mile was run by James Parrott on 9 May 1770.[35] He ran the 1-mile, west-to-east, length of Old Street to finish somewhere within the grounds/building of Shoreditch Church. Timing methods at this time were—after 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. Old Street has a c. 11 foot downward fall, with intermittent gentle undulations.[36] Neal Bascomb notes in The Perfect Mile that "even nineteenth-century historians cast a skeptical eye on the account."[37]

Weller Run (1796)


On 10 October 1796, The Sporting Magazine reported that a young man called Weller, who was one of three brothers, "undertook for a wager of three guineas to run one mile on the Banbury Road, in four minutes, which he performed two seconds within the time."[38] This is equivalent to £391 in 2023 yet about 5 months' worth of typical rural labourer pay at the time. By the late 1700s, a mile could be routinely measured to within a few inches;[39] watches, thanks to John Harrison, could measure 4 minutes to within 0.0009 sec (i.e. gain or lose 10 seconds a month),[40] and after about 1750 the mass production of highly accurate watches was well underway.[41]

Big Hawk Chief (1876 or 1877)


During his time as a Pawnee runner, Big Hawk Chief possibly became the first person documented to run a sub-four-minute mile. The details of the event, as chronicled by Army Officer, Captain Luther North, clocked the mile at 3 minutes and 58 seconds.[42]

Glenn Cunningham (1920s)


It is also reputed that Glenn Cunningham achieved a four-minute mile in a workout in the 1920s. In addition to being unsubstantiated, a workout run would not count as a record.[43]

Statue outside the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver immortalizing the moment in "The Miracle Mile" when Bannister (left) passed Landy

In 1955 Putnam & Co. Ltd. published Roger Bannister's account of the events in First Four Minutes.[44] This was later adapted as "The Four-Minute Mile" by Reader's Digest in 1958.

In the 17 November 1956 Season 2 Episode 26 Whole No. 65 of Science Fiction Theatre entitled "Three Minute Mile", a scientist (Marshall Thompson) attempts to create a super athlete (Martin Milner).

In the 1971 film The Omega Man, protagonist Robert Neville, as played by Charlton Heston, claims to have run a mile in 3 minutes and 50 seconds.

In 1988, the ABC and the BBC co-produced The Four Minute Mile, a miniseries dramatization 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.[45]

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.[46]

Also in 2004, a 50 pence coin was minted in the United Kingdom to celebrate the 50th anniversary of Bannister running the four-minute mile.[47] There were 9,032,500 minted in 2004. The coin was re-struck in 2019 as part of the '50 years of the 50p coin' set released by the Royal Mint, only for collector sets.[48]

In 2005, ESPN released an television adaptation of the event called "Four Minutes" featuring Jamie Maclachlan as Roger Bannister and Christopher Plummer as his wheelchair-using coach, Archie Mason.

In June 2011, the watch used to time the original event was donated by Jeffrey Archer to a charity auction for Oxford University Athletics Club; it sold for £97,250.[49]

In July 2016, the BBC broadcast the documentary Bannister: Everest on the Track, The Roger Bannister Story with firsthand interviews from Bannister and various other figures on the first sub-4-minute mile.[50][51]

See also



  1. ^ "Finding the Next Roger Bannister". Cameron Poetzscher's Sports Blog. Archived from the original on 6 June 2017. Retrieved 29 May 2017.
  2. ^ "Sports: Bannister stuns world with 4-minute mile". Sptimes.com. 17 December 1999. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  3. ^ The Sub-4 Alphabetic Register (1,755 athletes as at 6 June 2022), National Union of Track Statisticians, 30 June 2022
  4. ^ "Most Popular". CNN. 8 May 2000. Archived from the original on 2 October 2011.
  5. ^ YouTube video: Hicham El Guerrouj sets a world record in the mile in 1999
  6. ^ "PEDESTRIANISM.--Lang v. Time". The Yorkshire Herald and the York Herald. 7 November 1863. p. 12. Retrieved 21 January 2024.
  7. ^ "Pedestrianism at Manchester". The Era. 22 January 1865. p. 4. Retrieved 21 January 2024.
  8. ^ "PEDESTRIANISM". The Australian Town and Country Journal. 14 January 1882. p. 33. Retrieved 21 January 2024.
  9. ^ "Sports Fallacies by Margery Miller". The Herald-Press. 6 April 1946. p. 7. Retrieved 21 January 2024.
  10. ^ "1954: Bannister breaks four-minute mile". BBC News. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  11. ^ Beard, Mary (25 April 2014). "How running has changed since the four-minute mile". A Point of View. BBC. Retrieved 5 May 2014.
  12. ^ Litsky, Frank; McDonald, William (25 February 2022). "John Landy Dies at 91; Dueled Roger Bannister in 'Mile of the Century'". The New York Times. Retrieved 26 February 2022.
  13. ^ “Sir Roger Bannister: the day I reclaimed the four-minute mile”. ‘'The Telegraph'’. Retrieved 4 March 2018
  14. ^ "Ryun's mile record is history; high schooler Alan Webb hits 3:53.43". Active.com. 15 March 2007. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  15. ^ "High School Records – Boys". Track & Field News. Archived from the original on 15 August 2010.
  16. ^ Bill Carey (11 June 2011). "Verzbicas breaks four-minute mile". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  17. ^ "Future Duck Matthew Maton enters record books with under 4 minute mile | Sports | Eugene News, Weather, Sports, Breaking News | KVAL CBS 13". Archived from the original on 25 May 2015. Retrieved 25 May 2015.
  18. ^ Dutch, Taylor (6 February 2016). "Drew Hunter Smashes Alan Webb's High School Mile Record in 3:58". FloTrack. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  19. ^ "Drew Hunter Does It Again – Runs 3:57.81 for a New High School Indoor Mile Record". LetsRun.com. 20 February 2016. Retrieved 23 May 2016.
  20. ^ "Kendra Harrison Breaks 100mH American Record, Full Prefontaine Recap". 28 May 2016. Retrieved 9 May 2017.
  21. ^ "Reed Brown breaks 4:00". milesplit.com. 1 June 2017. Retrieved 2 June 2017.
  22. ^ "Leo Daschbach Breaks 4:00 in Mile; Supreme 56.81 Last Lap Allows Him To Become 11th US Boy To Do So". LetsRun. 24 May 2020. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  23. ^ "2020 The Quarantine Clasico". RT Live Results. RT. Retrieved 24 May 2020.
  24. ^ Dan Giesen (20 April 1996). "Scott Sets New Goals As He Turns 40". San Francisco Chronicle.
  25. ^ "Music City Distance Carnival – Complete Results – Tennessee Runner". Tn.milesplit.com. Retrieved 13 August 2012.
  26. ^ "World Records and Best Performances: Men's Track & Field". Athletics Weekly. Retrieved 11 June 2011.
  27. ^ "16-year-old Jakob Ingebrigtsen becomes youngest ever to break four minutes for mile". 29 May 2017. Retrieved 27 May 2018.
  28. ^ Yomif Kejelcha at IAAF
  29. ^ "2014 IAAF results for Yomif Kejelcha".
  30. ^ "Monaco Diamond League 2023: Live updates as Faith Kipyegon demolishes mile world record as Karsten Warholm scorches to 400m hurdles victory".
  31. ^ "Faith Kipyegon obliterates women's mile world record by almost five seconds". Canadian Running. 21 July 2023.
  32. ^ "The Four-Minute Mile Is Still Worth Celebrating". Outside Online. 11 February 2023.
  33. ^ "Good for a Girl by Lauren Fleshman – The Sub-4:30 Mile (Introduction)". Atlanta Track Club.
  34. ^ Radford, Peter (2 May 2004). "The Time a Land Forgot". The Guardian. London.
  35. ^ "The first four-minute mile". East London History. 2004. Archived from the original on 13 October 2004. Retrieved 11 May 2007.
  36. ^ Ordnance Survey: London (1915 – Numbered sheets) V.6, Revised: 1913, Published: 1916
  37. ^ Bascomb, Neal (2004). The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It (1st Mariner Books ed.). Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co. p. 60. ISBN 978-0-547-52506-8.
  38. ^ Fletcher (9 May 2014). "The 18th Century 4 Minute Mile". BBC News Magazine.
  39. ^ Radford, Peter (2 May 2004). "The Time a Land Forgot". The Guardian. London.
  40. ^ "John Harrison and the invention of the chronometer".
  41. ^ "History of Watches". Widespread population gained access to pocket watches only in the second half of the 18th century when popular lever escapement enabled clockmakers to produce cheap and very precise watches"
  42. ^ Sears, Edward S (2015). Running Through the Ages (2nd ed.). McFarland. pp. 101–102. ISBN 978-0-7864-7339-7.
  43. ^ Kiell, Paul (2006). American Miler: The Life and Times of Glenn Cunningham. Breakaway Books. pp. 93–94. ISBN 1-891369-59-8.
  44. ^ "Roger Bannister – First Four Minutes – First UK Edition 1955".
  45. ^ "The Four Minute Mile (TV Movie 1998) – iMDb". IMDb. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  46. ^ "Four Minutes (2005)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 5 May 2019.
  47. ^ "2004 Roger Bannister 50p Coin – Mintage: 9,032,500 – Scarcity Index: 3". changechecker.org. Retrieved 9 November 2022.
  48. ^ "50 Years of the 50p coin | The Royal Mint". royalmint.com. Retrieved 9 November 2022.
  49. ^ White, Belinda (28 June 2011). "Margaret Thatcher's handbag sells for £25,000". Fashion.telegraph.co.uk. Archived from the original on 16 November 2011. Retrieved 4 March 2012.
  50. ^ Rees, Jasper (28 July 2016). "Bannister: Everest on the Track: a reminder of what clean running looks like: review". The Telegraph. Retrieved 29 July 2016.
  51. ^ Chavez, Chris (11 April 2016). "Q&A with Tom Ratcliffe, director of Bannister: Everest on the Track". Sports Illustrated. Retrieved 14 December 2016.

Further reading

  • Bannister, Roger (1955). The First Four Minutes. Putnam.
  • Bascomb, Neil (2004). The Perfect Mile. Willow. ISBN 978-0-00-717373-0.
  • Bryant, John (2004). 3:59.4 The Quest To Break The Four Minute Mile. Hutchinson. ISBN 978-0-09-180033-8.
  • Nelson, Cordner; Quercetani, Roberto (1985). The Milers. Tafnews Press. ISBN 0-911521-15-1.
  • Phillips, Bob (2004). 3:59.4 The Quest for the Four-Minute Mile. Parrs Wood Press. ISBN 978-1-903158-49-4.
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