On the 6th of May 1954 all of 66 years ago today the impossible occurred. In the unlikely surroundings of the Oxford College track at Iffley Road wearing number 41 an exhausted Roger Bannister crossed the finish line, eyes closed, mouth gasping. The stadium announcer Norris McWhirter (of the Guinness Book of Records fame) calmly said: ‘here is the result of event number nine, the 1 mile, first number 41, R.G. Bannister of the Amateur Athletic Association and formerly of Exeter and Merton Colleges, with a time which is a new meeting and track record, and which, subject to ratification, will be a new English native, British national, British allcomers, European, British Empire and World record. The time is three minutes…’ The rest was drowned out by the cheering crowd, Roger Bannister had done the impossible he had ran a mile in a time of 3.59.4 – the 4 mile barrier was no more!
Since that date the sub- four-minute barrier has been broken on many hundreds of occasions, indeed thousands of occasions. The four-minute mile is still however magical. It is said that more people have climbed Mount Everest than have run a sub- four-minute mile. Here in Ireland there has been a total of 371 sub- 4-minute miles. The Clonliffe Harriers promoted Morton Mile has been the most prolific producer of sub 4’s in Ireland contributing 149 of that total going back to Kip Keino running the first sub- four in the Morton Memorial mile on 10 August 1970 up to the 2019 Morton Mile where in the deluge that night five athletes ran sub 4: Robert Domanic, Sam Prackle, Eric Avila, Justin Knight and Rorey Hunter.That list of 149 Morton Mile sub 4’s does not include pre Morton Mile races including of course the Herb Elliott world record of 3.54.5 set in Santry on August 6, 1958.
To date seven Clonliffe athletes have recorded sub 4 minute miles: Niall Bruton (3.53.93), Alistair Cragg (3.55.04), Dave Taylor (3.56.97), Frank Murphy (3.58.10), Eugene Curran (3.58.54), Andrew Walker (3.58.95) and Jerry Kiernan (3.59.12)
Attached to celebrate the 66th anniversary is a full list of the Irish sub 4th, thanks to John Cronin, Cyril Smyth, Killian Lonergan and others: