The 4 Minute Mile.
by Joanna Thompson.
Advances in science and technology are transforming almost every aspect of modern life. Many of the advances in science are accelerated by advanced technologies. Keeping abreast of these developments and breakthroughs is an important part of what News Items tries to accomplish. So we hired Joanna Thompson to help.
Joanna is our science editor. She also writes for a number of the leading science websites/magazines. She knows her way around the subject matter. She knows where to look for the highest quality information on scientific and technological subjects. We’re lucky to have her on the team.
She’s also….fast. In fact, she’s a professional runner. She runs in road races; like 5Ks and 10Ks and marathons. That led us to ask her a simple question: How has technology changed running? What follows is her response. She expanded the question to include swimming as well.
Is the 4-minute mile obsolete?
When Roger Bannister finished under four minutes for a mile for the first time in 1954, the feat was considered nothing short of super-human. It was indeed a feat. He and his contemporaries were limited by the technology of the period; tracks were made of cinder, running shoes were made of leather, spike implements were literal nails driven through the sole of a sneaker. On top of that, Bannister was a medical school student at the time and only able to train for an hour a day.
Since that historic event, running technology has improved dramatically, and the sport has grown in popularity; the number of athletes breaking the formerly unbreakable barrier has grown right along with it. But the sub-4 mile remained a massive challenge, the track equivalent of “summiting” Mt. Everest. In the 1960s, only 30 men in the world accomplished it; the next two decades saw 68 and 69, respectively. Track and Field News still keeps a list of every American who has run under 4:00 for a mile (I’m dating number 375).
That list is beginning to rapidly expand. The first two months of 2023 saw more than 75 athletes break the 4-minute-mile barrier, including 52 at a single Boston track meet. That event, more than any other, raised an obvious question: What happened?