Roger Bannister’s four-minute mile is now commonplace, but the record is harder than ever to beat

Founding member of a rapidly growing club.
Founding member of a rapidly growing club.
Image: AP Photo
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Roger Bannister died on March 3, over 63 years after becoming the first man to officially run a mile in under four minutes.

Since Bannister’s landmark run on May 6, 1954, sub-four-minute miles have become relatively commonplace. Over 500 American men alone have broken the four-minute mark, according to Track & Field News. That includes 21 who have run miles under four minutes since the beginning of 2018. At least 10 US high school students are in the record books for accomplishing that as well.

But new men’s records for the mile are nonexistent in our century. Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco set the current world record of 3:43.13 on July 7, 1999. El Geurrouj, now retired from competitive running, holds seven of the top 10 times for the men’s mile.

The current women’s record for the mile, 4:12.56 run by Svetlana Masterkova of Russia, is even longer standing, dating to 1996.

By comparison, Bannister held the world record for just 46 days.

Some statistical models predict the men’s mile record could further drop to as low as 3:39. But future breakthroughs in training techniques and other factors, such as the participation of new groups of people as the sport further globalizes, could theoretically lead to even lower times than that.