Ireland and the magic of the 4 minute mile


On the occasion of the 70th anniversary of the first sub 4 minute mile by Sir Roger Bannister on the 6th May 1954 in Oxford, the listing of sub 4 minute miles run in Ireland has been updated.

Research has found 390 performances by 222 athletes in 83 races across 15 venues. Of course, the very first one was on the famous night in Santry on August 6th, 1958, when Herb Elliott (AUS) broke the tape in a World Record 3.54.5 with a total of 5 going under the barrier in that race.

The fastest has been Sydney Maree (USA) 3.49.42 at the Cork City Sports in 1982. The youngest has been Nicholas Griggs (IRL) 3.56.40i at the NIA Live in the National Indoor Arena in 2022 aged 17 years 2 months and 23 days (the youngest in the World to go Sub 4 Indoor).

 The oldest has been John Walker (NZL) 3.58.29 at Giro Bank Ulster Games in 1989 aged 37 years 6 months and 5 days.

The most frequent have been Marcus O’Sullivan and Ray Flynn with 10 each followed by John Walker (NZL) with 9 and Steve Scott (USA) and Eamonn Coghlan on 8 each. A total of 90 of the 222 athletes set their career personal best time for the mile in Ireland.

The deepest field was at the Morton Games in 2017 with 12 dipping under 4 minutes. The city of Dublin has 179 performances with Cork on 141 and Belfast having 40.

The now named Morton Stadium in Santry has had 155 performances, with the Mardyke on 94 with MTU Athletic Stadium (Cork) on 47 and Mary Peters (Belfast) on 37.

Analysis of our two oldest events shows the Morton Mile with 162 performances since 1970 and the Cork City Sports Mile with 141 from 1974. 2017 was the most prolific year with 25 performances closely followed by 2018 and 1986 with 24 each.

The battle for the best country is close with Ireland 105 narrowly ahead of the USA 103, who along with Great Britain 63 and Australia 42 own three quarters of the performances between the 4 of them with 26 countries in total contributing.

Given the metric mile (1500m) has for many years being run instead, Ireland has held its own as a location for the magic of the sub 4 miles contributing to approximately five per cent of the performances recorded globally over the last seven decades since that event in Iffley Road Oxford.

Sir Roger Bannister himself was present in Tullamore on the 5th June 2014, the Golden Jubilee year, to witness local athlete James Nolan lead 2 Australians home all under 4 minutes.

Following on from Elliott in 1958, five subsequent Mile World Record holders; Peter Snell (NZL), Filbert Bayi (TAN), John Walker (NZL), Steve Ovett (GBR) and Steve Cram (GBR) ran sub 4s in Ireland. 

Since the list was first published on the 60th anniversary there have been 129 new sub 4 performances. A welcome addition is the 16 achieved indoors in the AIT International Arena in Athlone and the National Indoor Arena in Dublin. Ben Blankenship (USA) 3.56.75i was the first to run an indoor Sub 4 on the 18th February 2015 in Athlone. Ben had run an outdoor one in Cork in 2013 and thus became the first to do the sub 4 indoor and out.

John Travers became the first indoor sub 4 Irish performer in Ireland running 3.59.40i on the 21st February 2018 in Athlone, John having a sub 4 from Dublin in 2014 became the first Irish athlete to do the double indoors and outdoors on the Island.

Not included in these statistics are the eight who broke the barrier on the road during the Griffith Avenue Mile in November 1983, that field was led home by Sydney Maree the afore mentioned fastest miler in Ireland from 1982.

With the total sitting at 390, the next milestone will be the number 400 Sub 4 mile to be run in Ireland. Another stat is that no one has managed to run the so called “4 minute mile” or exactly 4 minutes for the mile in Ireland, that being done for the first time in the world by Derek Ibbotson (GBR) in 1958. The closest have been James Nolan 2004 and Paul Robinson 2011 with 3:59.99. No doubt both were happier with the time they ran than 4:00.00.

Thank you to President John Cronin and his team of statisticians for supplying the above research.

See full list Here.

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