John Landy talks about becoming a world record runner, 2008

Transcript of interview

All of a sudden in 1953 you had three runners within 2 seconds of the 4-minute mile and it became a great talking point, not only in athletic circles, but in sport generally. Could 4 minutes be run? Was it a barrier? Because people had been getting close to it for something like 20 years, and here it was, three runners within 2 seconds of the 4-minute mile. I ran six times 4 minutes 2 seconds in between December the 12th 1952 and February 1954.

The Commonwealth Games were coming up at that time. They were called the Empire and Commonwealth Games at that stage, and they were to be held in Vancouver in Canada, and they were scheduled to be held in August of 1954. I went to Europe in April of 1954 to get some training and opportunities to run fast in Scandinavia where they had very good tracks, and to prepare myself for the Commonwealth Games some months later.

Bannister then attempted a 4-minute mile on May the 6th 1954 and succeeded in doing it, so he ran the first 4-minute mile at Oxford - 3 minutes 59.4 seconds, so the record was broken. Then six weeks later, one of the runners that had been involved in his race, Chris Chataway, came over to Finland where I was running in the town of Turku, which was the old medieval capital of Finland, and there was a challenge race there over a mile, and I won, and I broke Bannister's record with a time of 3 minutes 57.9 seconds, and I also broke the world's 15 hundred-metre record on the way. And that record was to last over three years.

I suppose you get attached to it, but I mean you ... any person that's in sport where records are part of the interest in the sport, or an inherent part of it, you realise that they're very ephemeral and very vulnerable to ... no record lasts. Every record that's broken is certain to be broken again. I mean there must be an end to it, but it seems that we're as a human race is adaptable, and finds ways of breaking records. Sometimes it's due to superior performance. Often it is. Sometimes it's due of course to better facilities. But records are broken. You have to accept it - no record is going to last for very long. If you last for several years it's a long time.