Steve Spence’s 43-year-long sub-five-minute-mile streak came to an end on December 31 when, on the last day of year, the 57-year-old runner wasn’t able to complete a 4:59 mile.
Spence, of Elizabethtown, PA began his streak began in 1976 (when he was 14), and continued until 2018. He was a collegiate runner at Shippensburg University in Pennsylvania. He won a bronze medal at the 1991 World Championships, and made the 1992 U.S. Olympic team–both for the marathon. He ran a sub-five minute mile annually for 43 years.
Maintaining the speed to run a sub-five-minute mile would have been no issue in Spence’s prime, but maintaining this speed for 43 years is no small feat. Spence’s personal best for the marathon is 2:12:17 from 1990, and his 10,000m personal best was run in Abbottsford, B.C. at 28:27.26 (a very cool time) in 1988.
A sub-5:00 mile equates to approximately 3:06 per kilometre for slightly more than 1,600m. The mile is a lesser-contested distance on the international stage in comparison to the 1,500m. Spence’s streak is believed to have been the longest of its kind. Spence coaches at his alma mater.