Mary Decker Slaney

Birthday: 08/04/58 Mile PR: 4:16.71 - 1985 (former AR & WR)
Metric Mile (1500m) PR: 3:57.12 - 1983 (former AR)
High School: Orange HS (CA)
Hometown: Bunnvale, NJ
College: University of Colorado
Current Residence: Eugene, OR

Mary Decker Slaney is a four-time U.S. Olympic team member (1980, 1984, 1988 & 1996) and the only athlete ever to hold every U.S. record from 800 meters to 10,000 meters. Slaney won both the 1500 meter and 3000 meter titles at the inaugural 1983 World Championships in Helsinki, and she was the 1983 Sports Illustrated Sportswoman of the Year (the only female Miler to-date) and she appeared on the SI cover 4 times.

Slaney was the first woman to break 4:20 in the outdoor Mile (July 9, 1982) and she currently holds the U.S. record in the 3000 meters (8:25.83).

In addition, Mary is the only U.S. woman to hold the outdoor Mile world record that she set three times: 1980, '82 and '85. She is also the only woman to hold the indoor and outdoor Mile world records and has set the most Mile world records overall, either gender, with six (three indoors and outdoors)!

In 1982 over a month period (January 22 - February 19), Mary Decker set the indoor Mile world record an amazing three times (4:24.6, 4:21.47 and 4:20.5, the latter, the longest held U.S. Mile record (38 years!) - broken by Elinor Purrier on February 8, 2020).

She was the first American woman ranked #1 in the world for the 1500 meters / Mile by Track & Field News: 1983, and also 1985.

Over the course of her decorated career, Slaney set 36 national records and 17 official & unofficial world records from 800 to 10,000 meters and won 11 USA titles.

FUN FACT: Mary Decker won the 1982 Sullivan Award as the “the outstanding amateur athlete in the United States”; the only women’s Miler to do so. That year, she set 7 world records!

FUN FACT II: Mary is tied with Genzebe Dibaba of Ethiopia with the fastest track Mile time for a given month with two each, the most by any female athlete.

Photo credit: Jeff Johnson


Great Matchups — Mary Decker vs. The Soviets: Helsinki 1983

October 29, 2020

Landing on her chest and knees [Zaytseva] and sliding across the finish with her knees over the rail, as Decker (4:00.90) had captured her second gold in dramatic fashion.

From Track & Field News

HELSINKI, Finland—Mary Decker surprised the experts at the IAAF’s first-ever World Championships....

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Mary Decker and Zola Budd drove women’s athletics forward

July 28, 2016

More than 30 years after their heyday on the track, Decker and Budd still hold national records for the Mile.

By Jason Henderson, The Guardian

For an arena that bills itself as “the greatest stadium in the world”, the Los Angeles Coliseum is badly in need of a facelift. Large cracks caused by...

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Mary Decker Slaney still satisfies competitive cravings

June 19, 2015

For the past three years, Slaney has competed in the World Championships of Elliptical Cycling at Palomar Mountain near San Diego, improving her time each year. She’ll be entered again in this year’s competition on Oct. 17.

By Kerry Eggers, Portland Tribune

The world still moves quickly for...

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Nine for IX: Runner

August 12, 2013

The latest ESPN Nine for IX documentary takes a look at one of sports most infamous moments, the Mary Decker - Zola Budd collision at the 1984 Olympic Games at 3000 meters; premiers on ESPN on August 13; directed by former world class runner Shola Lynch, winner of the 1984 Millrose Games Girls'...

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Going Head to Head: Who is the Greatest Miler in History?

September 20, 2012

By Barbara Huebner, NYRR News

Some of the greatest Milers in the world have won the Fifth Avenue Mile presented by Nissan, which will be run for the 32nd time on Saturday. Sydney Maree, Steve Scott, Mary Slaney, John Walker, Peter Elliott and Bernard Lagat are among those who have broken the...

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After the Fall

October 01, 2009

Many remember Zola Budd as the barefoot prodigy who broke world records, became a symbol of South Africa's oppression, and was blamed for Mary Decker's Olympic nightmare, but her story has more heartbreak, more hard-fought redemption and considerably more weirdness than the legend.

By Steve...

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Running Legend Slaney Settles for Slower Pace

January 30, 2009

By Don Norcross, The San Diego Union Tribune

Mary Slaney wants to run. Not jog. Run.

There is a difference. Jogging is for exercise. Running is for exhilaration. Jogging is comfortable. Running hurts.

But Slaney, America's greatest female middle-distance runner, can't run. Not like she...

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Banner Week in The Record Business: Aouita & Slaney

September 02, 1985

When it came up again, there was no expression there, nothing but running animal. She held her form.

By Kenny Moore, Sport Illustrated

Morocco's Said Aouita came flailing into the stretch of the 1500 meters in West Berlin's Olympic Stadium last Friday night looking as if his teeth were going...

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She Runs and We Are Lifted

December 26, 1983

Mary Decker is moved by a competitive yearning that rises from so deep in her character that it connects with her will to be loved.

By Kenny Moore, Sports Illustrated

What a glorious conceit it is to pick a Sportsman of the Year. Can anyone really study the ranks of different champions and...

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Hands Across the Chasm

July 09, 1979

With track outcast Sydney Maree watching from the stands, Eamonn Coghlan ran the fastest Mile of the outdoor season and Mary Decker established an American record

By Joe Marshall, Sports Illustrated

To stir interest in last Saturday's Brooks Meet of Champions at Franklin Field in...

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