My First Sub-4
Oregon Duck runs “free” to match Bannister’s month, day and time for Norway’s first sub-4 minute Mile
By Arne Kvalheim
I ran my first sub-4 minute Mile on Saturday, May 6, 1967. My time was 3:59.4. The day in May and the time corresponded with the first sub-4 Mile by Roger Bannister in 1954. It was a Norwegian record, and I was also the first Norwegian to run sub-4 (Arne Hamarsland recorded a 4:00.8 in 1959). The meet was the annual dual meet University of Oregon vs. rival Oregon State. The venue was the track stadium at OSU in Corvallis, Oregon. I finished second to my teammate and lifelong friend Roscoe Divine who beat me with a couple of tens of a second. As both of us doubled back in the meet, Roscoe, if memory serves, to win the half mile, and myself to win the 2 Mile, I don’t think any of us ran as hard as we could except maybe for the last 200 meters in that particular Mile race.
It was the first Mile that season when Oregon’s legendary coach Bill Bowerman let us run free. Up to then in all other races, we had to run the races as if they were a time trials, sometimes with a slow controlled first half. Other times with a slow second or third lap. Bill always came up with a new scheme. As we won anyway, he wanted us to use those early races to get ready for the real stuff: the big races later in the season. Most of us didn’t like it one bit. We wanted to run fast and hard. However, you did what Bill scripted. Hence, it was a relief to be allowed to run freely in that Oregon State meet.
As we Ducks generally were much better trained than our competitors in the Pac-8 Conference, we won all Mile races in dual meets with sweeps even with those silly time trial looking races. Sometimes we were forced by Bowerman to hang back so far that we really had to “burn” the last half in order to win. We also had Wade Bell, Dave Wilborn and Jere van Dyck on the team, and we knew we could run well because we ran ¾ mile practice time trials in 2:54, but alas, we weren’t allowed to show that strength in meets until the OSU meet.
Prior to coming to Oregon in the fall of 1966, I had only run the Mile once (4:07 in 1965). We ran metric distances in Europe. However, in the summer of 1966 I had run 1500 meters twice in 3:42, equal to a 4 minute Mile.
Before coming to the U.S. and Oregon I didn’t really think too much about the sub-4 minute Mile. The Mile was to me just another race distance. However, coming to the U.S. and Oregon everyone interested in track and in Eugene, those are more than a few, talked about that sub-4 Mile. Consequently, I began to see the importance of achieving that goal as soon as possible, and the Oregon State meet was really the first opportunity. When I did it, I was more than pleased. Being the first Norwegian to do so, didn’t make me feel less happy. Even losing to Roscoe was tolerable.
Of the race itself I don’t remember much, it wasn’t very fast in the beginning, and I had to push the pace the last 600 meters on the dirt track and Roscoe out-kicked me on the homestretch.
A little interesting side note: Both Roscoe and I ran our best Miles later at storied Hayward Field in Eugene. Roscoe in 1970 running 3:56.3 and beating Steve Prefontaine, and in 1971, as a graduate student, I clocked a personal record 3:56.4, also besting Pre. These were two rare races that the legendary Pre was beaten at Hayward (NOTE: only three defeats overall, and all in the Mile). He didn’t like that a bit! However, Roscoe and I enjoyed it even though Pre wasn’t a Miler. Someone had to put the “Kid” down a little.
Later in life I think back on those days at the Oregon track team, Bill Bowerman and a wonderful bunch of good training partners and beer drinking comrades with great pleasure. I have been lucky later in life, good health, nice family and rewarding professional challenges. However, I think my days at the Oregon track team are maybe the highlight in my life. Bill Bowerman made such an impact on all of us, and not only athletically.
All the best to all Mile fans.
Greetings from Oslo,
EDITOR’S NOTE: Arne Kvalheim, a 1968 Norwegian Olympian, holds many honors including 11-time national champion and a member of the 4 x Mile world record relay team (16:05.0 in 1968) and University of Oregon’s Athletic Hall of Fame (Class of 2007).
In addition, his younger brother Knut also broke 4 minutes, and together, the pair are the 12th fastest sub-4 brother combination by average: Arne Kvalheim (3:56.4) and Knut Kvalheim (3:56.2) = 3:56.3. Arne also recorded 5 sub-4s in his racing career.
On Friday, May 27, 2016 in Eugene, OR, ten runners, including Arne, who all ran sub-4 under Bowerman, will be celebrated and feted. See www.sub4reunion.org/index.html for more details.