Bannister, Landy, and the Mile

60 years ago today Roger Bannister broke 4:00 in the mile when he ran 3:59.4. 6 weeks later Australian John Landy shaved a second off Bannister’s time. About 2 weeks later Bannister and Landy squared off in Vancouver at the Empire Games.

Landy, a front-runner, took the lead halfway through the first lap and tried out outrun Bannister’s finishing kick. Bannister had run the final lap (400m) of the mile race as fast as 54sec. in previous races. At the start of the fourth and final lap Bannister was right on Landy’s shoulder but Landy put a few steps on the Brit around the first corner. Bannister would later remark that had Landy known how tired he was Landy likely could have finished him.

Going into the final turn Bannister was back on Landy’s shoulder. Both men would finish under 4:00, and Bannister would collapse at the finish line. That’s a hell of a race.

Today the record stands at 3:43.13, a time set by Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj in 1999. Guerrouj and Kenya’s Noah Ngency both ran >3:44 that day, and American Alan Webb is the only person to even break 3:47 since, in 2007.

Links:

Neal Bascomb- The Perfect Mile

Bascomb’s book is an interesting account of Bannister, Landy, and American Wes Santee all chasing the 4:00mile. I wanted more historical and philosophical perspective, but it was cool read on how these men trained, their lives, and their pursuit in 1953 and ’54.

Mile World Record Progression (wikipedia)

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