4 minute mile


Original Post
Tom Rangitsch · · Lander, WY · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 1,456

Ok, so this is just some pointless question with no real answer, but maybe someone who runs a lot could give some input. How hard is 5.14 compared to running a 4 minute mile? I was trying to explain to my non climbing parents (who are in their 80s no less) how hard sport climbing grades are and I realized I really have no basis for comparison. In my exhaustive search of the internet I came across the fact that the first sub 4 minute mile was run in the 1950's and the current record is 3:43 or so.

I don't really know how many people have run that fast, or even how many people have climbed 14a (how many people train for each?). Maybe to limit this discussion I should put some modifiers on the route, as there are many styles of climbing. Let's say that the route is a power endurance sport climb (is a mile a power endurance run at that pace or more pure endurance?) with a maximum of a V8 or 9 crux and a bunch of hard 5.12 moves that are really pumpy. It should probably take no more than 10 minutes to climb and be the type of thing where you are redlining the entire time. Again I realize that this is an apples to oranges sort of thing and there is no good answer.

If anyone has other comparisons to benchmarks in other sports I would be all ears. The women's record for the mile is still not below 4 minutes so obviously this is not a perfect comparison as there are scads of women who have climbed that hard. I know climbing has much more complex movements and there is a lot more to it than pure fitness, but maybe running a sub 4 minute mile is more than just that too.

Mostly I am just bored at work on a night shift.

highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 0

There is so much skill to develop and so many different ways to climb a grade, even the same route, among different body types that it's hard to compare it to running. Technology also helps a ton in climbing where in running, less so.

To help with your comparison though, I'll ask who was the Roger Bannister of climbing? Was it Henry Barber or was it Wolfgang Gullich?

cadenarmstrong · · Toronto, Ontario · Joined Dec 2016 · Points: 45

An acceptable solution to finding the comparison would be to find what the distribution of runners times and the distribution of grades people can climb. Find a comparable intersection. If only the top 1% of runners run a 4 minute mile, find what the top 1% of climbing climb at. Its probably impossible to compare the actual difficulty of a 5.14 to a run or other sport, but comparing the populations of two sports might be easier (not necessarily 100% correct) and give a more satisfying result. But, finding what people climb would be really difficult, because unlike running, theres no automated data collection and posting online. MP ticks wouldn't work due to selective bias (stronger climbers are more likely to use MP).

Tom Rangitsch · · Lander, WY · Joined Jan 2007 · Points: 1,456

I like this approach. Thanks for articulating much better the idea I am trying to express. I guess what I am looking for is a bell curve where you can say x% of climbers climb this grade, x% of athletes in another discipline can do this particularly hard thing (which is what I think you said better than I just did). That would be the most accurate way to say that one feat is equivalent to the other in terms of difficulty, at least to some degree.

I think there are many more strong climbers that utilize 8a so that may be a better gauge for sport climbing. I think MP has a more mixed bag of climbers, and many of them are not into it to push the grades. Maybe if you took all the Americans that have logged at least 1 5.14 ascent there and compared that to the number of American climbers on 8a, you would have an idea of the percentage. I think that the people who actually care about grades and are actively trying to climb as hard as they can are best represented by this kind of sample. Not a perfect solution, but none is. This could be compared to data for runners. I am not sure where to look for this. Who would be your general population of runners (everyone competing in the mile? high school athletes? college? citizen races?) that you could use to generate a bell curve with to see where the 4 minute mile falls in the distribution? As I write this I am realizing that maybe there is no good way to find even an approximate answer to this question.

Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 15

can't compare it to running because running does not have extreem skill requirements on top of the extreem fittness requirements. I would never have compared Lynn Hill when she free climbed the nose to the world champion runner.that was more like winning the world cup in slalom,GS, Super G and downhill all in one year and winning the world chess title at the same time. I don't really know what sport to compare climbing to but it would have to involve skill, stratedgy, fittness and danger. I would say without a shadow of a doubt that if you can consistantly climb 5.14 at multiple venues then you are a world class climber.

MojoMonkey · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2009 · Points: 63

A previous discussion,on climbing grades vs 5k times: mountainproject.com/v/compa...

Pnelson · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jan 2015 · Points: 60
cadenarmstrong wrote:MP ticks wouldn't work due to selective bias (stronger climbers are more likely to use MP).
ok, I just spit coffee all over my keyboard at that one.
Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 5

I know quite a few runners that are fairly serious about it, doing many full ironman tris among other things. None of the have come close to a 4 minute mile. The best I heard out of that group was running a half marathon at a 6 min/mi pace which I found crazy. That guy still couldn't run a 4 min mile.

I think part of the problem you will have is most people don't train for sprints so there will be so few who can do a 4 min mile whereas a lot of climbers train to climb as hard as they can in the sport climbing world.

I've met multiple 5.14 climbers. I've never met someone who could run a 4 min mile.

Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 5

Maybe a good comparison would be ACT score. Most people get way under perfect even if they practice and take it multiple times. Some really naturally talented people will get close and some people who try really hard will get close but for the most part the only perfect scores are very smart and very motivated kids.

Tim Lutz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 0

4 minute mile vs V14 would be a more apt comparison as both are based on pure power, engaging fast twitch, and ultimately genetics

a 5.14 could be a 35m enduro fest with no moves harder than v5, so more like a really fast 5k time

and a 4 minute miler will not beat a top 5k runner running the 5k, and the 5k runner won't beat the 4 minute miler

Jake wander · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2014 · Points: 5
Tim Lutz wrote:4 minute mile vs V14 would be a more apt comparison as both are based on pure power, engaging fast twitch, and ultimately genetics a 5.14 could be a 35m enduro fest with no moves harder than v5, so more like a really fast 5k time and a 4 minute miler will not beat a top 5k runner running the 5k, and the 5k runner won't beat the 4 minute miler
I may have interpreted his question wrong but I think he's looking for a way to describe how difficult and rare it is not what types muscles etc are required.

I know you can't read my tone so I just wanted to point out that it was not said in dick voice. Just friendly!
Tim Lutz · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Aug 2012 · Points: 0
Jake wander wrote: I think he's looking for a way to describe how difficult and rare it is not what types muscles etc are required.
right, but difficult and rare is exactly based on 'what types of muscles are required'

(also not said in 'dick voice' ;0)
DannyJ · · San Diego, CA · Joined Sep 2015 · Points: 25

Former college runner here, can't add much to the data on how hard 5.14 is, but I can speak a little on the rarity of a sub 4 mile. Here is a comprehensive list of all US sub 4 milers:

http://www.trackandfieldnews.com/index.php/archivemenu/13-lists/1476-tafn-us-sub-400-milers

Two important things about this list: it does not repeat names, so you can't have more than one sub 4 mile listed for each person, and it doesn't convert 1500m times, which is the much more commonly run distance in outdoor track.

From this list it looks like there were about 25 new runners who ran a sub 4 mile in 2015 and 2016.

Another list:
http://www.ncaa.com/2016-division-i-indoor-track-and-field-championship-results
(must click on the MALE ATHLETES ACCEPTED hyperlink, and scroll down to the Men's Mile)

These are the seed times for the 2016 NCAA D1 Indoor Track and Field meet. Usually there are 20-25 athletes each year that run a sub-4 in order to be accepted into this meet. This list leaves out professional runners, this is only Division 1 collegiate runners.

So - I would guess anywhere from 30-40 athletes run a sub 4 mile each year in the US, to include those that ran it in a previous year. This is much less than the ACTUAL number of sub 4 miles, which would include many people running multiple sub 4 miles in a year and multiple sub 4 1500m equivalents.

Fat Dad · · Los Angeles, CA · Joined Nov 2007 · Points: 5
Tim Lutz wrote:4 minute mile vs V14 would be a more apt comparison as both are based on pure power, engaging fast twitch, and ultimately genetics a 5.14 could be a 35m enduro fest with no moves harder than v5, so more like a really fast 5k time and a 4 minute miler will not beat a top 5k runner running the 5k, and the 5k runner won't beat the 4 minute miler
This. I used to do duathlons BITD (lousy swimmer). Really fast runners are genetically gifted. Not that they don't train really hard. It's just that others could train that hard but hard and not crack a 6 minute mile. People who boulder really hard are similar I would think. I never specifically trained for either but was fairly good at both: boulder about V7 and a 16:53 5K. I could have probably pushed a bit beyond that, but it would LOTS of effort for small gains. Having said that, there are a lot of kids who grew up in the gym who just crush. If they started running hard at that age, we might see runners of similar ability.
Tyler Metheney · · St Louis · Joined Sep 2016 · Points: 0

In the Army the fastest mile I had was 6 min 15 sec an I felt like I was booking. I consider myself to be in pretty decent shape and naturally athletic. IMO if I trained hardcore for a year (which I never would) I could definitely see myself coming closer to a 5.14 project than a 4 min mile. Good thought provoking question. Cheers!

K. Le Douche · · Unknown Hometown · Joined May 2008 · Points: 65

I have a bit of insight into this, as someone who ran track and cross country in high school and college, then transitioned to climbing, and as someone who was not even close to breaking 4 minutes, or climbing 5.14a...

I think a sub 4 minute mile is probably closer to 5.15 based on how long it took the respective communities to reach those benchmarks, and based on the caliber of athlete required to reach those marks. 5.14a is way harder than I will ever climb, but most climbing areas have a local strong man that can climb 5.14a. That can't be said about a sub 4 minute mile, and just about every high school and college in the country has a track team. Also, in high school track, it's a HUGE deal if a kid breaks 4 minutes in the mile, like it's been done by 8 ppl (in the US). When's the last time your mind was blown because a 17yr old kid climbed 14a?

This is all very scientific, and I assure you that my research was extensive...

4 min mile = 5.15a
You would be a professional athlete

3:50 mile = 5.15b
You would be a top ranked Pro-athlete

Sub 3:45 mile = 5.15c
Less than a hand full of people have ever done it
(sub 3:45 has been done by 3 ppl , 5.15c has been done bt 2 ppl)

Jim Fox · · Westminster, CO · Joined Jun 2014 · Points: 10

https://www.quora.com/How-many-people-have-run-a-mile-in-under-4-minutes-since-Roger-Bannister

highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 0

So I'll chime in on lesser accomplishments and try to equate it to the OP.

I have run a 5:20 mile. Literally slow enough to get lapped on a 4 lap race.

At the time I was directly in the middle of the fittest I've ever been. 250-400 miles a week on the bike, including racing both days every weekend. Also running 2-3 days a week with a junior high running club I sponsored.

5:20 was as close to a cardio monster I had ever been. Probably fitter than my Ironman days in my early 20's. I felt that with specific speed workouts and timing on a track I could have squeaked in just under 5:00. Even as a really well trained athlete, in my mid 20's, I could never imagine going anywhere near the 4:00 mark. I felt awfully close to my physical limit.

Climbing was a different story. I climbed my first 13 at 30 years old. In the following 5 years, I did a lot more of them. Ultimately hit 13C before adulting caught up to me and I stopped progressing. My decline was initially due to lack of time spent climbing. Had I never stopped or been more focused I really didn't see a physiological barrier for at least a few more grades. This is with below average genetics and general good psyche.

Comparing my two lesser accomplishments and what I put into them, it sure seems that a sub 4:00 mile is absolutely harder, less common, and way more genetically dependent than climbing 14a.

Even now, pushing 40 and struggling on 11+, 14a seems attainable with the right set of circumstances. Running that fast again seems off the table.

Avalon'cha · · your girlfriend's bedroom · Joined Aug 2013 · Points: 0
Tom Rangitsch wrote:Ok, so this is just some pointless question with no real answer, but maybe someone who runs a lot could give some input. How hard is 5.14 compared to running a 4 minute mile? I was trying to explain to my non climbing parents (who are in their 80s no less) how hard sport climbing grades are and I realized I really have no basis for comparison. In my exhaustive search of the internet I came across the fact that the first sub 4 minute mile was run in the 1950's and the current record is 3:43 or so. I don't really know how many people have run that fast, or even how many people have climbed 14a (how many people train for each?). Maybe to limit this discussion I should put some modifiers on the route, as there are many styles of climbing. Let's say that the route is a power endurance sport climb (is a mile a power endurance run at that pace or more pure endurance?) with a maximum of a V8 or 9 crux and a bunch of hard 5.12 moves that are really pumpy. It should probably take no more than 10 minutes to climb and be the type of thing where you are redlining the entire time. Again I realize that this is an apples to oranges sort of thing and there is no good answer. If anyone has other comparisons to benchmarks in other sports I would be all ears. The women's record for the mile is still not below 4 minutes so obviously this is not a perfect comparison as there are scads of women who have climbed that hard. I know climbing has much more complex movements and there is a lot more to it than pure fitness, but maybe running a sub 4 minute mile is more than just that too. Mostly I am just bored at work on a night shift.
Is this in reference to 5.14 a,b,c or d........ Just saying is it 5.14a (one or two moves at that grade, and the rest @ 5.2) or is it a 14d endurofest?
highaltitudeflatulentexpulsion · · Colorado · Joined Oct 2012 · Points: 0
Avalon'cha wrote: Is this in reference to 5.14 a,b,c or d........ Just saying is it 5.14a (one or two moves at that grade, and the rest @ 5.2) or is it a 14d endurofest?
I read it as 14a.

I think too many are focusing on type of 14a or V14 or whatever. That's a pretty pointless task and you simply can't compare the two pursuits.

More important to focus on would be the percentage of runners (all of them, including saturday morning joggers) that can break 4:00. Compare that to percentage of climbers (all of them, including the climbing prop at the state fair) who have climbed 14a. Which percentage is smaller? With that, you could say which is harder.

Another bit of info would be days/hours/years to get to 4:00 or 14a.
Nick Goldsmith · · Pomfret VT · Joined Aug 2009 · Points: 15

you can't count gym 14 either. but still you are talking two entirely different sports. the running is mostly a physical accomplishment? climbing 5.14 is both physical and a techique and strategy problem. also running that 4 min mile is an absolute outcome. either the clock says you did it or you did not. 5.14 is subjective grade.... with climbing its not your single highest grade send that defines how good a climber you are anyways. It is the grade that you can consistantly climb anywhere you go that defines how good you are.

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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