Going Beyond Belief – The “4 Minute Mile”

Beliefs do play a strong role in the actions we take and therefore the outcomes. Beliefs at times tend to become contagious too. If somebody believes in a particular thing, slowly that belief spreads in the society, and suddenly everybody seems to have the same belief. Going beyond belief in such circumstances is therefore more of a mental challenge than what the belief itself is about.

The “4 minute mile” was one such belief that was widely believed for a long time only to be proven wrong.

Going beyond belief – The “4 minute mile” barrier

For may years it was considered beyond belief to run a mile (1609 meters) under 4 minutes. People believed that it could cause physical damage to the runners health if he were to attempt this. Running a mile in four minutes translates to a speed of 15 miles per hour (24.14 km/hr or 14.91 secs per 100 meters). This supposedly difficult equation convinced everybody, it is beyond belief to run a mile under 4 minutes. It was considered a human impossibility. This was the “4 minute mile” belief.

It indeed was a physical challenge. The equation clearly represents that. But as we said to go beyond belief, its not an act of physical configuration as much as it is a mental challenge.

On 6 May 1954, Roger Bannister went “beyond belief” for the first time when he conquered the mile under 4 minutes. He crossed the finishing line with a timing of 3 mins and 59.4 secs. Going beyond belief and breaking the 4 minute barrier was so significant at that time that Forbes named it the greatest athletic achievements.

If beliefs are contagious, so is the magic of going beyond belief. Suddenly, people saw a way to go beyond belief. 56 days later, John Landy, a great runner of that time, too conquered the mile clocking 3 mins and 57.9 secs. One more man went “beyond belief” within 2 months.

What was equally notable was that in three years time, 16 more runners were able to run a mile under 4 minutes. Everyone was going beyond belief now. Or so it seemed. At least they saw a possibility of going beyond belief.

So what happened to the fact that it was considered a human impossibility because of the physical challenge it imposed? If Roger Bannister had perceived it to be a physical barrier, he probably never would have gone beyond belief. He actually thought it to be more of a psychological barrier. That made the difference in his approach. And when the world witnessed one man going beyond belief, they too realized it was not so much a physical barrier as much as it was a psychological one. The other runners too were successful in going beyond belief. And slowly the old belief was replaced by a new one that a mile can be run under 4 minutes.


What we believe influences our actions in a great way. It influences what we choose to do or not to do. It slowly results in the formation of our own attitude or our approach towards how we react to situations in life. And this determines, whether we are capable of going beyond belief or will we be stuck with a belief that “it is not possible”.

Is there any “4 minute mile” belief holding you back? Do you now think and feel it is possible to go beyond belief?