That's how long it took Roger Bannister to complete four laps of the Iffley Road track, 50 years ago today. It's also slightly less time than it took three of us to try to break in and emulate his great feat (and, indeed, his great feet) at 5:30 this morning.
I picked up my co-conspirators (both also called John) at 5:15 as planned. We drove to Iffley Road, occasionally sniggering at ourselves and the foolishness of what we were doing. A quick drive around the perimeter established the fact that we weren't going to be able to stray "accidentally" onto the track from the main road, and that what we would have to do to gain access was maybe a tad closer to breaking and entering than any of us had planned to get.
We dumped the car in a side street. Ordinarily, I'd have just parked it, but dumping it seemed more in keeping with the general dodginess of our behaviour. We established that we could perhaps vault over the fence by the sign commemorating the event, but the presence of a still-pissed student staggering home from a rough Wednesday night scuppered that plan. We walked to the top gate. Barbed-wire. Spikes. They really didn't want us to get in. We decided that our planned excuse if caught on the premises ("What? We aren't allowed in here? We thought it was a public track!") wouldn't really work if we'd clambered over a barbed-wire fence to get there in the first place, so we walked down to the bottom gate in the hope of finding a hole in the hedge.
And so we did.
Our conversation on the way there involved gruesome stories of people getting spikes through their feet in attempting to clamber over fences. Somehow we managed to clamber over the collapsed spiked fence and through the hole in the hedge with no greater casualty than the seat of my trousers, which I snagged a little bit.
Now we were inside the complex - albeit, a good way from the track. We waded through some thick grass, past a hockey pitch, and arrived at the trackside - but still the wrong side of a fence. We continued to circle in the hope of finding a gate, but succeeded only in finding first a CCTV camera, and then a groundsman. Strangely, he didn't seem overly pleased to see us.
In fairness to him, he swallowed our wide-eyed confusion rather than delving deeper (he's probably got a busy day today) and told us that the running didn't start until later. We apologised for causing any concern and wandered back through the wet grass to the hole in the hedge.
As a token gesture, we jogged back to the car. It wasn't a mile, but we still didn't manage it in less than four minutes.
A running track is a lot bigger in real life than it looks on the TV. Making it round there once in a minute is impressive enough, never mind doing it four times in under four.
It's a strange record, the mile. In 1913, it was acquired by one John Paul Jones (who later went on to play bass and keyboards in Led Zeppelin) and stood at 4 minutes and 14 seconds. 40 years later, Bannister had knocked the best part of a quarter of a minute off that. 50 years later again, the record stands at 3 minutes 43. By my reckoning therefore, on 6th May 2154, some bright young thing will be hurling himself around the track on the Iffley Road four times in an attempt to be the first to break the three minute mile. I hope he has more luck getting into the venue than we did.