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The stats point to an even faster mile

The mile event in running has always been an iconic race that captured public attention when Roger Bannister achieved what many thought impossible by running a sub 4 minute mile time. The stats point to even quicker times!


four minute mileUntil 1954 the prospect of running the mile in four minutes was thought to be an impossible one. It was then that Englishman Roger Bannister achieved a time of a little over 3 minutes 59 seconds. Since that day, sixteen seconds have been shaved off of this time, prompting speculation that the 3 minute mile might one day also be a possibility.

That might be a bit of a tall order, but an Australian mathematician, who has analysed the past century’s records for the men’s one mile race, has declared that athletes could run the mile eighteen seconds faster than the current record time of 3 minutes 43 seconds, held by Moroccan runner Hicham El Guerrouj's.

In 1967 Dr Michael Deakin of Melbourne's Monash University declared the absolute limit for the distance to be 3 minutes 32 seconds, but he has now revised that estimate, saying that the mile could be run in 3 minutes 25 seconds. Although international athletics bodies now only recognise world records for metric distances, they have made an exception for the legendary mile and still keep records today.

Deakin used a much bigger set of data, and non-linear trend analysis, a branch of statistics commonly used in economic forecasting, to arrive at his new figure, though these advances have not enabled him to estimate a date when this new record might be achieved.

Most experts agree that predicting the boundaries of athletic performance is almost impossible, and that therefore Dr Deakin’s estimate could materialise, but say that athletes are unlikely to run a three minute mile without some sort of assistance. Dr Shane Brun, senior lecturer in medicine at James Cook University and vice-president of Sports Doctors Australia, says humans will reach a stage where they cannot get any better without some form of modification; ‘Whether that's through evolution or science or drugs we just don't know’.

Source: ABC Science Online, www.abc.net.au/science/news/stories/s1559791.htm

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