The original barrier-breaker on how the world record for the mile will never be static
While some before his time were saying that it was impossible for humans to run a mile in less than four minutes, Sir Roger Bannister is not surprised to see times coming down well below that.
Speaking to AW on the eve of the 60th anniversary of his incredible feat, the 85-year-old explains how he believes a 3:30 mile is possible and how it will happen, one day.
When Bannister ran his historic mile at Iffley Road track, Oxford, on May 6, 1954, it was on a gravel track one second a lap slower than the synthetic tracks in use today, he points out.
“I’ve said three and a half minutes was physiologically achievable but thought it would take a long time to do,” he says.
“We’ve now got to 3:43 so there has been a slowing up as I would expect until someone gets close to three and a half minutes.
“But I think there’ll always be one runner who can run better to find some fault in the record-breaker’s training. Or have more drive, more ambition.
“So there is no absolute point at which the record will be static. That’s my view.”
Of course, as AW‘s editor Jason Henderson points out in the latest sub-four special issue of the magazine, some would highlight that the sub-3:30 has already happened. Racing a downhill road mile in Auckland in 1983, Mike Boit of Kenya clocked 3:28, yet on a flat, standard track, the world record is Hicham El Guerrouj’s 3:43.13.
“In 1976 John Walker became the first man to break 3:50,” Henderson writes. “Noureddine Morceli cracked 3:45 in 1993. Diane Leather was the first woman to beat five minutes in 1954. Svetlana Masterkova smashed 4:15 with 4:12.56 in 1996. David Weir wants a sub-three-minute road mile in a wheelchair.
“Yet 3:30 is impossible, surely. Maybe. But they said that about four minutes, too.”
» The above comments from Sir Roger Bannister are taken from a four-page interview included in the May 1 issue of AW, available here or digitally here, in which he speaks about his sub-four milestone and what he has gone on to be most proud of since