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1868: Five minute mile smashed

Updated: Dec 7, 2023

Roger Bannister completing the four minute mile in 1953.

Mr W Bailey, who achieved successes at the athletic sports both here [Surrey] and at Cuckfield last autumn was backed to run a mile within five minutes. The mile chosen was from the Whalebones, Peas Pottage Hill, to Broadfield Flat, the inclines nearly the whole of the distance being favourable, but the recent shower, just previous to the start on Saturday evening, caused it to be very dirty, and much in favour of time backers.

The distance was accomplished, the time being very accurately kept, in 4 min. 52 sec. A large concourse of people were present.

The Sun, 11 March 1868

NOTES: Roger Bannister, at age 25 broke the four minute barrier 86 years after Bailey's record run in 1954 doing a time of 3:59.4

As of June 2022, the four-minute barrier has been broken by 1,755 athletes, and is now a standard of professional middle distance runners.

According to the Guinness World Records, the fastest mile time by a male athlete is 3 minutes 43.13 seconds. It was achieved by two-time Olympic medalist Hicham El Guerrouj, representing Morocco in Rome on July 7, 1999. Faith Kipyegon currently holds the record at 4:07.64 mins on 21 July 2023.

Contributed by Malcolm Davison.

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