Letter: Why three minutes would be the ultimate mile

Sir: Remembering well Roger Bannister's running of the first four-minute mile, I was interested in the opinions in Mike Rowbottom's article ('Day that turned out fine for Bannister', 5 May) on the ultimate record mile time.

In 1970 at the Chalk River Nuclear Laboratories, Ontario, Canada, while considering bonding orbitals of transition metals, an admittedly bizarre bit of lateral thinking (I was an active club athlete) led me to discover that, for any one individual, the rate of anaerobic running (the inverse of speed) declines linearly with the logarithm of the total distance run, and that the coefficient of that decline (I called it the 'fatigue coefficient') could be used to predict the optimum distance to be run by any athlete.

This was published in the science journal Nature (Vol 228 pp 184-185, Oct 10, 1970) with a colleague, Dr Kit Coleman, and concluded with the prediction that the ultimate mile record would be three minutes exactly (and the ultimate marathon would be run in one hour 37 minutes 30 secs]). We further speculated that the ultimate mile would be run by 2070.

By the by, in reference to another matter currently in your columns, in my present incarnation I rarely preach for long but never as short as three minutes, or even four. How short, I wonder, have readers heard sermons preached? Less time than that needed to 'run a mile' from the preacher?

Yours faithfully,


All Saints South Wingfield

and Christ Church Wessington

South Wingfield, Derbyshire

6 May