My History With the Mile Run

by Mark MIndel

           Mark Mindle with Eamon Coughlin and Kipchoge Keino. Photo courtesy of Mark Mindel

I have always been fascinated with the mile run. Below I will chronicle my flirtation with it, and also take a look at my five favorite milers.

I ran my first mile race as a freshman at Niskayuna HS in 5:01.2 as a member of our 4 mile relay team at the Colonie Relays May 6,1967 (despite having HOF’er Gary Connor, we finished second to the Frank Myers’ coached Colonie HS squad).

I ran my last mile race on May 20, 2023 in 12:03, finishing second in my age group, but was beaten to the line by 9 year old Alina Rebhun who crossed in 11:51; I finished 75th of 78 runners.

In between that 56 year span, I ran the mile (or its metric counterpart of 1500 meters) 102 times, primarily at the Colonie summer track meets between 1976 and 1985, where I ran 77 of them.

I PR’d at the Colonie Mile in 4:21.8 on August 6, 1977, beaten to the line by Kevin Scheuer. On August 8, 1984 I won the Empire State Games Masters 1500 in 4:03.6, which is an approximate 4:20.8 mile equivalent.

Never did I get close to the elusive 4:00 minute mile of my childhood idol, Jim Ryun.


Ryun, from Kansas, was born April 29, 1947 (now 77 years old). Back in the 1960’s he was as famous an athlete as there was, right alongside Muhammad Ali. His mile races were covered live on the radio.

Ryun burst onto the scene when he became the first high schooler to break four minutes with a 3:59.0 at the California Relays in 1964. His high school record of 3:55.3 in 1965 lasted 36 years and he still holds the American Junior Record (19 and under) of 3:51.3.

Ryun set two World Records in the mile: 3:51.3 in 1966 and 3:51.1 in 1967.

Although he competed in three Olympics (Tokyo, 1964; Mexico City, 1968; and Munich, 1972) he never won Gold, coming in second to Kipchoge Keino in the 1968 1500 meter final.


Kipchoge (Kip) Keino from Kenya, was born January 17, 1940 (84). His most famous race was his Olympic victory in the metric mile (1500 meters) at Mexico City in 1968 where he upset overwhelming favorite, Jim Ryun, in a then Olympic record time of 3:34.91.

Keino had tremendous range as he competed in the Olympic Games in events from 800 meters up to the 10k.

Kip competed in three Olympiads: 1964, 1968, and 1972, winning two Gold medals (1500 at Mexico City) and (3,000 meter Steeplechase at Munich) and two Silvers (5k in 1968 and 1500 in 1972).


Coughlan, born in Dublin, Ireland November 21, 1952 (71) ran collegiately for Villanova. He was known as the “Chairman of the Boards” as he was far more successful indoors, than out.

From 1979 until 1983 Eamonn set and lowered the indoor mile record beginning with a 3:52.6 in ‘79 to 3:50.6 in ‘81 and finally to 3:49.78 in ‘83. His record lasted until 1997 when Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj broke it.

Coghlan competed in the 1976 and 1980 Olympic Games, finishing fourth both times, in the 1500 at Montreal and the 5k at Moscow.


El Guerrouj, born in Morocco September 14, 1979 (49) has to be considered the greatest middle distance runner of all time. His 1999 World Record 3:43.13 in the mile set in the Golden Gala track meet in Rome is still the current world record, as is his 3:26.00 1500, also set in Rome.

While Hicham was successful in the Olympics with two golds (1500 and 5000 meter runs at Athens in 2004) and one silver (1500, Sydney, 2000) he was astonishingly great in the World Track Championships.

El Guerrouj won 7 gold and 2 silver medals from 1995 to 2003 at the Worlds, ranging from 1500 to 3000 to 5000 meters, indoors and out.


Mark Mindel with a signed copy of Sports Illustrated with Roger Bannister on the cover.
Photo courtesy of Mark Mindel

“The Granddaddy of them all” and the first to ever break the four minute mile, Bannister was born in Harrow, England, March 23, 1929 and lived 89 years passing away March 3, 2018.

Bannister was a med student and had little time to train long distances so he concentrated on his speed. On May 6, 1954, he ran behind two pacesetters in 58 seconds at the quarter, passed the half in 1:58 and ¾’s in 3:01, kicking the last 440 yards in 58 seconds to set the World Record at 3:59.4. 

One question that continues to be asked is - Will a woman ever break the 4 minute mile?

In my opinion, I would think so. The current World Record is 4:07.64 set by Kenyan Faith Kipyegon, on July 11, 2023. One reason this record is hard to break is because the mile is not contested very often as tracks are now metric and 4 laps is 1600 meters, not a mile.

A challenge to club members - Try your luck at the Mile!

If you’ve ever tried to run a mile, it’s not an easy thing to do. First of all, most tracks are now metric so 4 laps/ 1600 meters is approximately 2 seconds shorter than the mile at 5 minute mile pace.

If you’d like to try to race the mile, then the Colonie Summer Meets which run all summer (currently at Shaker High School due to construction at Colonie HS) has a one mile run as its first event. In order to run the full mile, the race takes into consideration the metric track and you will start about 10 meters back to get a full mile in.

Good luck, and I hope you enjoy the mile as much as I do!

Mark Mindel is a long-time runner, coach and track official. He won the Montreal Marathon in 1979 and he founded the Schenectady Stockade-athon, winning three of the first four and running the first 43 consecutively. Mark was recently inducted into the Greater Capital Region Track HOF and is currently a Fleet Feet Vikings Marathon Coach.

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