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Throwback—Kenya’s Mike Boit runs 3:28 road mile

Mike Boit's 3:28 at the 1983 Molenburg Mile still stands as one of the fastest times in history

MIke Boit downhill mile

In the age of super shoes and ridiculous one-mile times, one man’s road mile from 1983 has aged like fine wine. When 1972 Olympic 800m medallist Mike Boit of Kenya pulled up to the 1983 Molenberg Mile in Auckland, New Zealand, he threw down a ridiculous time of three minutes and 28 seconds, a time runners have not come close to in the present era.

The Molenberg Mile course was a tad downhill, with around 200 metres of elevation loss from the top of Queen Street to Auckland’s harbour. It would be equivalent to descending almost half of Toronto’s CN Tower. 

Although Boit’s time is one of the fastest mile times ever by a human, downhill road miles are not eligible for records. Most world-class middle-distance runners dream of breaking 3:30 in the 1,500m, but in this crazy race, three men went under 3:30 for the mile. Olympians Steve Scott of the U.S. was second in 3:29.44, and Ray Flynn of Ireland finished third in 3:29.66.

The elevation of the Molenburg Mile course. Photo: Strava

Boit had a legendary track and field career, as the main rival of British Olympic champion and now World Athletics president Seb Coe. He won bronze in the 800m at the 1972 Olympics in Munich, in a race better known for the famous last-to-first comeback kick by U.S. Olympian Dave Wottle.

The world’s fastest downhill miler also had a fourth-place finish in the 1,500m behind fellow legendary Kenyan runner Kipchoge Keino.

In the same downhill race, Canada’s Brit McRoberts sprinted to a 4:03 mile to finish second, just behind Christine Hughes of New Zealand, who won the race in 4:02.93.

Hicham El Guerrouj
Hicham El Guerrouj (left) at the 2004 Athens Olympics

Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco is the current men’s mile record holder with his time of 3:43.13, while Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands holds the women’s mile record of 4:12.33. 

Since the Molenberg Mile was such a hit in the early 1980s, the organizers decided to make a series around this race with different venues and surfaces across New Zealand. Races were held on the trotting track at Addington in Christchurch, the flat road at Mount Maunganui, the beach at Paraparaumu and the classic downhill of Queen Street in Auckland. The series came to a halt in 1984. 

This race needs to come back into existence.