Audio John Landy talks about becoming a world record runner, 2008

TLF ID R10120

This is an edited sound recording of former champion runner John Landy recalling how he became a world record holder. He says that in the early 1950s, the possibility of running 1 mile (1.6 km) in under 1 minute was 'a great talking point'. He says Roger Bannister became the first to achieve the goal in May 1954. Landy then broke Bannister's record in a race in Finland six weeks later. He reflects on the nature of world records, saying that although there must eventually be a limit to human performance, we can expect all records to be broken. The recording was made in July 2008.

Educational details

Educational value
  • This is a firsthand account by a champion Australian athlete on the build-up to breaking a world record. Landy (1930-) relates how the great international interest in someone breaking the 4-minute mile 'barrier' was generated by three runners in 1953. They were himself, Roger Bannister (1929-) of the UK and Wes Santee (1932-) of the USA; all three ran times very close to the 4-minute mark.
  • In this recording Landy provides an insight into the attitude of a world record holder to it being broken. He describes world records as 'very ephemeral and very vulnerable'. He acknowledges there must be a limit, but says every record is certain to be broken again, sometimes as a result of superior performance, sometimes because of better facilities. Bannister's record had lasted just six weeks before it was broken by Landy, whose record then lasted more than three years.
  • Bannister became the first person to run the mile under 4 minutes when he ran 3:59.4 at Oxford University in England on 6 May 1954. Landy then lowered the mark on 21 June 1954 at Turku in Finland with a time of 3:57.9 (rounded out under international rules then in force to 3:58.0). Landy's record lasted until 19 July 1957 when another English runner, Derek Ibbotson, ran a mile in London in 3:57.2.
  • Many other runners subsequently ran sub-4-minute miles. On 7 July 1999 in Rome, Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco set a new world mark of 3:43.13 - almost 17 seconds under 4 minutes. In 2008, when this recording was made, El Guerrouj's record still stood. El Guerrouj also set the world record for 1,500 m (3:26.00) in Rome in July 1998.
  • Landy received many awards in recognition of his contributions to sport. He was made a Member of the Order of the British Empire in 1955, and in 1985 he was inducted into the Sport Australia Hall of Fame. He was awarded a Companion of the Order of Australia in 2001, and in 2005 he was named a Legend of Australian Sport. He was also governor of Victoria from January 2001 until April 2006.

Other details

  • Publisher
  • Date of contribution: 20 Sep 2013
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
  • Copyright holder
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
  • Remarks: Copyright Education Services Australia Ltd
  • Content provider
  • Organisation: Education Services Australia
  • Address: Melbourne VIC 3000 Australia
  • URL:
  • Author
  • Date of contribution: 2008
  • Name: John Landy
  • Remarks: speaker
Access profile
  • Colour independence
  • Device independence
Learning resource type
  • Sound
  • Microsoft Internet Explorer - minimum version: 7.0 (MS-Windows)
  • Firefox - minimum version: 2.0 (MS-Windows)
  • Safari - minimum version: 2.0 (MacOS)
Operating systems
  • MacOS - minimum version: X
  • MS-Windows - minimum version: 2000 - maximum version: XP
  • © Education Services Australia Ltd, 2013, except where indicated under Acknowledgements.