Steve Spence’s Legendary Sub-5:00 Mile Streak Comes To An End After 43 Years

By Robert Johnson
December 31, 2019

A lot has changed since 1976*, but up until today, there was one constant. At least once every year, Steve Spence would run a sub-5 minute mile.

Spence’s legendary streak, which began when he was a 14-year-old in 1976 and continued as he became a collegiate star at Shippensburg, then as a professional who won a bronze medal in the marathon at the 1991 World Championships and made the 1992 US Olympic team, then followed him into his coaching days as he took over the program at Shippensburg, is coming to an end today.

Inspired by our own employee Steve Soprano extending his own personal sub-5 streak to 17 years yesterday, we reached out to Spence to see if he had any last-minute sub-5 attempts planned for 2019. Spence revealed that after a failed attempt yesterday, it was time to acknowledge the streak would not continue as he wrote:

Hi Robert

The streak has ended at 43 years.  I made an attempt at an all-comers meet at Hagerstown Comm College on Saturday, December 28 and ran 5:07.  Made another attempt today on our outdoor track here at Ship and ran 74 – 2:29 (75) – 3:47 (78) and then the wheels really came off, so I stepped off the track at 1300 meters.  I truly enjoyed both attempts and I sincerely appreciate all those who stepped up to assist me this year and in the past.  

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I’m very close to being ready to go sub 5, but I needed a few more key workouts.  I just ran out of time, but I feel that I did the best that I could coming off of knee surgery on June 18.  I plan to continue to train and try again in few weeks just to prove to myself that I can do it.

Best of luck to your employee tonight!  Please tell him that I wish him luck.  I’d like to be there in 26 years when he breaks the record.

Photo via

Spence’s streak is no more but we hope it inspired many.

Earlier in December, he sent us another email explaining how knee surgery prevented him from getting in a sub-5:

Hi Robert

If my body cooperates and I’m able to manage 2 weeks in which I do 2 key workouts per week, I’ll give it a go.

I was fit and ready to easily run sub 5 in January, but I hurt my left knee on January 27 before I was able to make it happen.  It did not get better and it was not responding to the PT so I had my knee scoped on June 18. I was able to train on the Elliptigo about 10 days after surgery, but I was not able to run consistently until October 1.  Due to some killer sessions on the Elliptigo, my aerobic fitness is where it needs to be, but I’m not yet comfortable running intervals at sub 5 pace.  If my body cooperates and I’m able to execute a few key workouts, sub 5 may happen.

I’m cautiously optimistic because I have Lopez Lamong’s secret weapon, Phil Wharton, living on the other side of the mountain in Path Valley.  I’ve been doing Phil’s stretching and strengthening routines and I plan to connect soon for some hands on therapy.

Best wishes to you and your family for Happy Holidays!

The real Steve Spence – lol

Talk about the end of Spence’s streak on our messageboard.

MB: Steve Spence’s 5:00 mile streak ends at 43 years

*A lot has changed since Spence began his streak. At the start of 1976, Apple computer didn’t exist and now it’s the most valuable company in the world, worth $1.3 trillion. Back in 1976, the average income per person in the US was $5,220. Now, the average spent on healthcare per person is more than double that ($10,587 in 2018).

More End of Year/Decade Articles: 

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