Miles and miles

AP Photo/Thierry Charlier

Russian track star Svetlana Masterkova has held the world record in the mile with a time of 4:12.56 since 1996.


On this day 60 years ago, Roger Bannister became the first person to break the four-minute mile. Then a 25-year-old English medical student, Bannister became an international sensation with his record-setting run of 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds in Oxford on May 6, 1954. While his record was broken 46 days later, the milestone remains one of the most cherished in track and field history.

Less than a month after Bannister's achievement, countrywoman Diane Leather became the first woman to break the five-minute barrier in the mile at the Midland Championships at Birmingham, England. Because the IAAF didn't recognize the women's mile as an official event until 1967, Leather's accomplishment was not officially recorded.

The current women's mile world record was set by Russia's Svetlana Masterkova in 1996 with a time of 4:12.56 seconds. Masterkova, who had given birth to her daughter in March of 1995, set the mark just 11 days after finishing her double-gold performance in the 800 and 1,500 meters at the Atlanta Olympics. In the nearly 18 years since she set the mark, no one has come within five seconds of her time.

Mary Decker Slaney (4:16.71 in 1985) and Alan Webb (3:46.91 in 2007) hold the American records. Hicham El Guerrouj owns the men's mile world record with a time of 3:43.13, set in 1999.