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  • The “Bannister Equivalent”

    What are the equivalents of the four-minute mile in the other track & field events? How could one even go about measuring this?

    I explore these questions in my blog and make an attempt at an answer. I'm interested in your opinions and feedback (please be kind!).

  • #2
    Could you compare times/heights/distances on the IAAF scoring tables? Would that be a fair way of comparing?

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    • #3
      Originally posted by AthleticsInBritain
      Could you compare times/heights/distances on the IAAF scoring tables? Would that be a fair way of comparing?
      A most-excellent idea, AIB. I hadn't thought of that. I did a quick scan of the IAAF Tables to see how close that method was to my own and found that the 4:00.00 Mile score (actually, 3:59.99) is 1075. The equivalent 800m time on the IAAF chart is 1:48.33. Since my "Bannister Equivalent" analysis yielded an 800m time of 1:48.75, I stopped right there, knowing they were close enough to validate my own method. I still like my own method because it ties all of the times/marks into a single feat that is still the measuring stick for excellence, namely the four-minute mile and its most famous disciple, Sir Roger Bannister.

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      • #4
        If there's a weakness in the approach, it's that different events don't behave linearly in the same way. Where we really see that in the blog entry is in the field events. Those "4-minute equivalent" marks are great performances.

        The IAAF scoring table suggestion is a good one. Another option, which may be more or less the same thing, is to see where 4:00 falls on a yearly world list, and compare the same spot in other events. (For this to work, it probably makes sense to search for 3:42.2 in the 1500, since that event is much more common than the mile, world-wide.)

        So if there are 127 runners worldwide who ran 3:42.2, we could look for what #127 is in the triple jump, and list that mark.

        This isn't the nice, easily-explained approach that the percentage approach is, unfortunately. Illustrating how difficult it is to really compare across events.

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        • #5
          Shouldn't you be comparing 3:59.4, Bannister's actual time, rather than 4 minutes exactly? If you want to be really pedantic that is.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by cigar95
            If there's a weakness in the approach, it's that different events don't behave linearly in the same way. Where we really see that in the blog entry is in the field events. Those "4-minute equivalent" marks are great performances.
            Excellent point, Cigar. I wonder if some of the field event world records are skewed in any way because they are aberrations, for whatever reason (since I want to adhere to the message-board guidelines, I'm not going to say why I think they might be aberrations! Suffice to say that some of them were set in the 1980s when there was a Cold War going on. :wink

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            • #7
              Originally posted by AthleticsInBritain
              Shouldn't you be comparing 3:59.4, Bannister's actual time, rather than 4 minutes exactly? If you want to be really pedantic that is.
              I thought about doing it that way, but then I realized that the mark he actually got was far less important than the barrier he broke.

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              • #8
                I've got the women's chart up now, too. Enjoy!

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by FinishLinePundit
                  I've got the women's chart up now, too. Enjoy!
                  Notice that this one also shows exceptionally strong field event marks. The running events seem to be in line, though the 10k mark may be a little strong. (Of course, that's one where the WR itself is somewhat controversial.)

                  It surprises me that the time for the 100 is in line with about where it "ought to be", even though that WR is about as controversial as they get. (I'm talking wind gauge, guys, not anything else.)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by FinishLinePundit
                    Originally posted by cigar95
                    If there's a weakness in the approach, it's that different events don't behave linearly in the same way. Where we really see that in the blog entry is in the field events. Those "4-minute equivalent" marks are great performances.
                    Excellent point, Cigar. I wonder if some of the field event world records are skewed in any way because they are aberrations, for whatever reason (since I want to adhere to the message-board guidelines, I'm not going to say why I think they might be aberrations! Suffice to say that some of them were set in the 1980s when there was a Cold War going on. :wink
                    I am from a time when an 8.10 LJ was considered equivalent to a 2.10 HJ. Not exactly the case today.

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                    • #11
                      I think there are two ideas being introduced here, and they're being confused with one another.

                      The equivalent of the "four-minute mile" is something that can be expressed mathematically, as several people are showing.

                      But your thread subject is The "Bannister Equivalent," and that's something that takes this subject out of the mathematic and into something more magical, perhaps mystical.

                      The "Bannister Equivalent" would be another round-number marker in another event, something once thought unattainable, something broken only after a long time of people thinking about what it would take, when or if it might ever happen, and under what circumstances it could be achieved. You're talking about things that more commonly might be called "barriers."

                      So, with that in mind, here are some barriers broken and those yet to come. You can fill in the names and dates, but you'll find they cover a broad period of time in the sport.

                      Mile: 4:00, 3:45, 3:30
                      1500: 4:00, 3:45, 3:30
                      800: 1:50, 1:45, 1:40
                      400: 47.0, 46.0, 45.0, 44.0, 43.0

                      IT doesn't take much knowledge of the sport to figure out what the logical "barriers" were. And a listing of these is included in the T&FN Little whatever-size-and-color Book you-happen-to-own.

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                      • #12
                        Those of a certain age know that the Golden Age of barrier-breaking was the '50s, as the sub-4:00 mile, 7-foot high jump and 16-foot vault were actually in the realm of actual interest amongst the general public.

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by dj
                          I think there are two ideas being introduced here, and they're being confused with one another.
                          I'd have to disagree, Dave. When I first read the thread title a couple days ago, I assumed it was about barrier breakers. but it was pretty clear pretty quickly that "Pundit" was looking for performances that are equivalent, at the performance level, to a 4-minute mile.

                          The 4-minute mark was chosen *because* it was a barrier of interest, and remains so today, in its own way. But for the most part, we've been discussing stuff like "what 400 meter time, or pole vault height, would be the equivalent of a 4-minute-mile today?" Generally those marks didn't represent any particular numerical milestone.

                          Nice, round numerical barriers are certainly interesting, and we've discussed them often elsewhere on these boards. But I don't think they've entered much into our discussion in this particular thread, beyond defining the original mark used as a benchmark.

                          (Apropos of nothing, my personal favorite barrier is the 3:00 4x400, since that's my favorite event. Given that I've become primarily a prep honk in recent years, the barrier remains well in the future for me.)

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by cigar95
                            Originally posted by dj
                            I think there are two ideas being introduced here, and they're being confused with one another.
                            I'd have to disagree, Dave. When I first read the thread title a couple days ago, I assumed it was about barrier breakers. but it was pretty clear pretty quickly that "Pundit" was looking for performances that are equivalent, at the performance level, to a 4-minute mile.
                            I agree with you regarding the text of Pundit's comments. But the headling sends one in a different direction. If one follows the headline, the piece should be about barriers and barrier breakers; if one follows the lead sentence, it's about proportionate marks across events. In the latter case, the headline should have mentioned 4-minutes, not Bannister.

                            I decided to follow the Bannister tack as it hadn't been discussed.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              I think you're both right, dj and cigar95. The exercise was a mathematical one, but the only reason I was interested in those mathematical equivalents was specifically because of the magical, mystical qualities of Bannister's historic race.

                              I'm sure most of you who have read the books or watched the videos of the race that was held on the Iffley Road Track (or who might actually have been there and watched the race in person!) on 5/26/1954 knows exactly what dj means when he writes "magical, perhaps even mystical."

                              So, really, I was trying to sprinkle some of that magic dust from the Bannister race on some of the other events. In order to do so, I had to try and correlate those races, performance-wise, to the Bannister race.

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