On Thursday I had the privilege of hearing Jim Bailey speak regarding his experience of running the first sub-four minute mile on U.S. soil. The event, hosted by the GBRC, was very entertaining, and a whole lot of club members showed up.
On May 5th, 1956, Bailey knocked out the 6th sub-four minute mile ever, and 1st on American soil, down at the LA Coliseum as part of a USC-UCLA track meet. I think he said his previous best was a 4:05, and although he was certainly fast, the sub-4 and the win over John Landey was unexpected. We got to watch old film footage of the race, and the man came out of nowhere on the backstretch to catch Landey, who had been leading. There were 40,000 people in the stands.
Both Bailey and Landey are Australians. Bailey apparently was a brash roughneck of sorts, to hear him tell it, while Landey was the crowd favorite. Bailey said he can relate more to the runners in Chariots of Fire than to the incredible runners and their training today. He also ran for the University of Oregon, and it was interesting to hear him describe his own experiences of Bill Bowerman, who was a much younger coach when he was there. Not quite the legend he later became.
Bailey answered questions about spikes, cinder tracks, training, and his racing history. He was ever amusing and entertaining, and somewhat wistful I suppose about his relationship with his native Australia, which really didn’t take to his comments after winning over Landey.
Blaine Newnham of the Seattle Times wrote a great little profile on Bailey roughly five years ago, which tells more details. Here's a link.
Off to run.