Nick Willis Sets World Record by Breaking 4:00 in the Mile for 19th Straight Year

By Jonathan Gault
January 19, 2021

Nick Willis made history on Tuesday night by breaking 4:00 in the mile for the 19th year in a row. Willis, 37, ran 3:58.63 to finish second behind Mason Ferlic (3:58.05) at the Orange Winter Classic #1 meet in Clermont, Fla., breaking a tie with fellow New Zealand legend John Walker, who broke 4:00 for 18 years in a row from 1973-90.

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Willis broke 4:00 for the first time on February 8, 2003, at the Meyo Invitational in South Bend, Ind., when he was 19 years old, and has broken 4:00 every year since, with a personal best of 3:49.83 at age 31 in 2014. He has also earned two Olympic 1500m medals during that span — a silver in 2008 in Beijing, and a bronze in 2016 in Rio.

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Below, courtesy of messageboard poster “Mark” is Willis’ fastest mile every year since his streak began in 2003. It’s also worth noting that Willis came close to starting his streak two years earlier, as he ran 4:01.32 as a 17-year-old in 2001 and 4:02.46 in 2002.

Mark / Place / Location / Meet / Date
3:58.15i >4 h1 Notre Dame, IN Meyo Invitational 07-Feb-2003
3:53.51 2 Eugene, OR Bowerman Mile 19-Jun-2004
3:53.43 11 Oslo Bislett Games 29-Jul-2005
3:52.75 1 Wanganui 11-Feb-2006
3:55.09 4 New York, NY Reebok Grand Prix 02-Jun-2007
3:50.66 2 Eugene, OR Bowerman Mile 08-Jun-2008
3:53.54i 1 Boston, MA 07-Feb-2009
3:55.26i 1 Boston, MA Reebok Indoor Games 06-Feb-2010
3:51.95 10 Eugene, OR Bowerman Mile 04-Jun-2011
3:51.77 7 Eugene, OR Bowerman Mile 02-Jun-2012
3:55.70 1 Des Moines, IA Drake Relays 27-Apr-2013
3:49.83 2 Oslo Bislett Games 11-Jun-2014
3:51.46i 2 New York, NY Wanamaker Mile 14-Feb-2015
3:51.06i 2 New York, NY Wanamaker Mile 20-Feb-2016
3:56.41 2 Huntington, NY Long Island Mile 06-Sep-2017
3:56.77 5 Birmingham Emsley Carr Mile 18-Aug-2018
3:54.80 6 New York, NY Wanamaker Mile 9-Feb-2019
3:59.89 2 Boston, MA New Balance Grand Priz 25-Jan-2020
3:58.63 2 Clermont, FL Orange Winter Classic #1 19-Jan-2021

For comparison, also courtesy “Mark,” here is Walker’s best time by year during his streak:

Mark / Place / Location / Meet / Date
3:58.80 3 Victoria, BC 07-Jul-1973
3:54.90 3 Helsinki 01-Aug-1974
3:49.40 1 Gothenburg 12-Aug-1975 world record
3:53.07 1 Stockholm 09-Aug-1976
3:52.00 1 Dublin Morton Games Mile 11-Jul-1977
3:56.40 1 Auckland 28-Jan-1978
3:52.85 6 Oslo IAAF Golden Mile 17-Jul-1979
3:52.70 2 Brussels Ivo Van Damme Memorial 22-Aug-1980
3:50.12 4 Zürich Weltklasse 19-Aug-1981
3:49.08 2 Oslo 07-Jul-1982
3:49.73 2 Berlin Internationales Stadionfest (ISTAF) 17-Aug-1983
3:49.73 2 Koblenz 29-Aug-1984
3:53.20 3 Cork 09-Jul-1985
3:50.93 3 Rome Golden Gala 10-Sep-1986
3:55.04 2 Barcelona 15-Jul-1987
3:52.48 9 Oslo Bislett Games 02-Jul-1988
3:54.28 8 Oslo 01-Jul-1989
3:55.19 2 Portsmouth 12-Aug-1990

A few other fun stats on Willis. In all, he has broken 4:00 48 times in his career, in nine states and four countries:

Willis’ sub-4:00 miles by country

Countries Sub-4:00’s
USA 36
New Zealand 6
UK 3
Norway 3

Willis’ sub-4:00 miles by state

States Sub-4:00’s
New York 11
Massachusetts 10
Michigan 5
Oregon 4
Indiana 2
Arkansas 1
Iowa 1
California 1
Florida 1

And here’s a look at how many times Willis broke 4:00 each year:

Year Sub-4:00’s
2003 1
2004 2
2005 2
2006 2
2007 1
2008 3
2009 2
2010 2
2011 4
2012 3
2013 3
2014 5
2015 2
2016 4
2017 1
2018 3
2019 5
2020 2
2021 1

Discuss Willis’ incredible accomplishment on our messageboard:

MB Nick Willis is going for history tonight. Will he set the all-time record of most seasons with a sub-4 minute mile at 19?
From 2020: MB Nick Willis ties John Walker with 18 straight seasons with a sub 4:00 mile

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