Roger Bannister ()Roger Bannister () © Copyright

The 11 greatest miles

As part of mile week on SPIKES, kick back and enjoy some of the finest races ever.

1. Roger Bannister in Oxford, 1954

The original and the best. With a little help from his chums Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher, Roger Bannister managed the impossible and dipped below the sacred four-minute mark. 60 years on, fewer men in history have ran a sub-four minute mile than have climbed Mount Everest.

2. Roger Bannister beats John Landy in Vancouver, 1954

Six weeks after Bannister’s iconic achievement, his great Australian rival John Landy became the second man to break the four-minute barrier, lopping nearly one-and-a-half seconds off his time. 

Later that season, the pair clashed again at the Vancouver 1954 Commonwealth Games: a showdown dubbed ‘The Mile of the Century’. The Briton had to kick hard to catch and pass Landy for gold. It was the first race in history to witness two sub-four minute miles.

3. Jim Ryun beats Peter Snell in San Diego, 1965


No world record, but a classic clash between two all-time greats. This was the race in which Ryun, at just 18, announced himself as a major player by edging to victory at the National AAU Track and Field Champs, beating three-time Olympic champion Peter Snell of New Zealand.

4. Steve Ovett in London, 1980


The master miler Steve Ovett demonstrated his class and repelled a star Golden Mile' field at Crystal Palace.

5. Seb Coe in Brussels, 1981

This, the last of Seb Coe’s three world mile records, still ranks him tenth all-time over the distance. Enjoy Coe at his imperious best.

6. Eamonn Coghlan in New Jersey, 1983

The Chairman of the Boards showcased his indoor gift by setting the third and final of his world indoor mile records. The time of 3:49.78 still stands second on the all-time lists.

7. Mike Boit in Auckland, 1983

The fastest mile ever was achieved by Kenya's Mike Boit on Auckland’s downhill Queen Street. The time, 3:27.8, is simply staggering.

8. Steve Cram in Oslo, 1988

The third of Britain's golden trio of milers (Ovett, Coe and Cram) was supposed to be past his peak in 1988. But in Olso, and with "nowhere to go", the Jarrow Arrow found a gap on the inside and salvaged a thrilling win that looked beyond him entering the home stretch.

9. Svetlana Masterkova in Zurich, 1996

Two weeks after winning the Olympic 800m and 1500m double in Atlanta, the Russian mum demolished the mile world record by more than three seconds. Her 4:12.56 WR still stands today.

10. Hicham El Guerrouj in Rome, 1999

Rarely does a world record result in such a great race. Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco held off the challenge from Kenya's Noah Ngeny to win by just 0.27, in 3:43.13. 15 years on, they remain the two fastest times in history.

11. Nick Symmonds in Oregon, 2012

What better way to shake off an Olympic hangover, than getting a proper hangover? Watch Nick Symmonds' attempt at a less traditional mile: chugging four beers along the way to 5:19.9. And stay tuned, he hopes to take down Josh Harris' 5:04.9 world record this year...