A Short History of the Mile

The word “mile” comes from the Latin “mille”, meaning thousand, and a mile was 1,000 Roman strides, a stride being two paces. A mile is equal to 5,280 feet or 1,760 yards or approximately 1,609 meters. Currently, the United States and Great Britain use the mile as a measurement unit. The mile became standardized as exactly 1609.344 meters by international agreement on July 1, 1959.

The mile became “The Mile” near the end of the 19th century when professional foot racing became the most popular sport in England, and Walter George (GBR) was the Mile’s first superstar. Over the next 100 years, other great Milers followed such as Norman Taber (USA), Paavo Nurmi (FIN), Glenn Cunningham (USA), Gunder Hägg & Arne Andersson (SWE), Herb Elliott (AUS), Jim Ryun (USA), Sebastian Coe (GBR), Mary Slaney (USA) and Hicham El Guerrouj (MAR), but it was Roger Bannister (GBR), in 1954, who cemented the Mile’s place in history with the first sub-4 minute Mile – a time many experts thought an impossible if not a deadly barrier to break, and to this day, Bannister’s iconic mark is the watershed moment for the Mile.

In the early 1980s, U.S. high school state federations switched from the Mile to the 1600 meters because new tracks were 400 meters instead of 440 yards and thus, the 1600 meters (9 meters short of a Mile), due to convenience, unfortunately and sadly, replaced the Mile at high school State Meets (except Massachusetts and a few states that run the 1500 meters), but the Mile’s appeal did not and has not died because the Mile holds a special place in Track & Field and beyond. No running distance, or field event for that matter, has the history, the appeal, the “magic” of the Mile. No other event has produced an equivalent of the sub-4 minute Mile standard in the sport, in the media and in the public’s mind. Put simply, the Mile still matters.

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Return the Mile to prominence on the American sports and cultural landscape by elevating and celebrating the Mile to create a national movement.

Bring Back the Mile as the premier event in the sport, and increase interest in and media coverage of the Mile for both those who love the distance as well as the general public.

Bring Back the Mile to celebrate the storied distance and to recognize the people who made and make the Mile great and to promote Mile events and the next generation of U.S. Milers.

Bring Back the Mile to create a national movement for the Mile as America’s Distance,
to inspire Americans to run the Mile as part of their fitness program and to replace the 1600 meters at High School State Track & Field Meets across the country.

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