Ryun Record Wrecked, Great Moments in Athletics history, by Mike Fanelli



Sports Illustrated captures the new world record of Filbert Bayi! 17 May 1975

Today is the 45th anniversary of Filbert Bayi breaking the Mile World record of Jim Ryun of 3:51.1 with Bayi's 3:51.0! Bayi broke the 8 year old World Record of Jim Ryun at the 1975 Martin Luther Games, held in Kingston, Jamaica.

Fifty years ago, on May 17, 1975, Filbert Bayi took the mile record and made it his own.

Thanks to Mike Fanelli, we have this piece on how the record was broken. Mike Fanelli has had a life long love of the sport, and has competed in most distances up to the 100 mile race.

Mike Fanelli writes a near daily column on Facebook on athletics history. This is a special feature.

We thank Mike Fanelli for this view into track & field history!

Philadelphia based track impressario, Bert Lancaster sure knew how to assemble a great field. Outside of his day job as one of the nation's leading automotive salesmen, Lancaster wore numerous other hats. He was the chief financier behind the legendary Philadelphia Pioneers, and just a fantabulous meet director. This included the 1975 Martin Luther King Games, held in muggy Kingston, the capital city of Jamaica. Kingston, by the way, was no newcomer to big time track, as the 1966 Commomwealth Games had been held there. You might recall, that's where Kip Keino came into prominence when winning the mile (3:55.34) and then doubling back to take a close contest from Ron Clarke at 3 miles (12:57.4).
For this particular meeting's title fight, the one mile run, Lancaster gathered together Marty Liquori, Rick Wohlhuter, Eammon Coghlan, plus the Tanzanian Terror, Filbert Bayi. Bayi, who traveled for 23 exhausting hours from Africa via Rome, London, Montreal, and New York, before arriving on the Jamaican Isle, was the exclusive pre-meet topic of conversation. According to press reports, both the media and the other invited miler entrants did a fair amount of advance hand-wringing and speculating, as to how the unpredictable Bayi would approach this star studded affair. Would he lay back for a hard charging final four-forty, as he had throughout the past winter's indoor circuit, or would he go 'kamikaze-like' from the gun, as he had done against John Walker, when slashing nine tenths from Jim Ryun's 1500 meters world record in Christchurch the year prior.
When asked directly about his intentions, the savvy Bayi shared only, "I know what pace I will run, but it is my secret."
The answer to this guessing game would become apparent soon enough, when the starter's gun fired shortly after 8:00 P.M. on a breezy balmy Jamaican eve. Bayi shot straight into the lead and held a four meter advantage at the 220, which increased to fifteen meters as the field approached the quarter mile post...a benchmark which Filber Bayi split in a brisk 56.9 seconds. His four key contenders also came through in less than 60 seconds, led by Coghlan (58.9), Waldrop (59.1), Liquori (59.2) and then Wohlhuter (at 59.4).
Over the second lap, as the field stretched out a bit, Bayi eased up on the gas with a 59.7 'go around' while passing through the 880 at 1:56.6. Approaching the first turn of lap three, Bayi peered back over his right shoulder to assess the status of his combatants. Coghlan had closed to just less than ten yards, and towed Liquori in his wake. Out of the curve and into the backstretch, the Tanzanian seemed to slow yet a little bit more, thereby allowing the chasers to close in a bit on their potential kill. Approaching three quarters, the Irish Villanova junior, Coghlan, ever so slightly inched by Bayi, while the Jersey bred Villanova grad, Liquori, pulled to within two strides. "2:55.3" was yelled from the curbside, as the trio eclipsed the 1320 marker, and for a fleeting moment, all were within a whisper of one another. But Mr. Bayi had other ideas.
Instantly, after the clanging of the infield bell that signaled just one circuit to go, the lanky blue-vested Bayi unfurled his effortless stride, amping up his cadence relentlessly with every sigle lengthening stride. Coghlan in second and Liquori in third gave great chase. When Eammon struggled towards the final turn, Marty moved around him...but not without receiving a gut check elbow that sent him wide. By then though, the final straightaway was like that lyric from a Guess Who song, 'it was too late'. Filbert flew a 55.7 final 440 for a 1.2 second margin of victory over the handlebar mustachioed American, 3:51.0 to 3:52.2.
When the dust had settled, Bayi's mark had sliced 1/10 of a second off of Jim Ryun's eight year old world record, which he had set in Bakersfield in 1967 (a race in which the Essex Catholic schoolboy Liquori became just the third high schooler to dip under 4:00). Marty had scored a quite hefty personal best, while Eammon (3:53.3) busted both the Irish and European records. Wohlhuter's fourth place time (3:53.8) was an improvement on his lifetime best, as former Tar Heelers, Waldrop (3:57.7) and Reggie McAfee (3:59.5) rounded out the race's sub 4:00 standards.
97409667_10221693992434867_4461885693810966528_o.jpgFilbert Bayi on the cover of the Bible of the Sport, Track & Field News
The ramifications that this epic four lapper had on the then All-Time mile list is a beautiful thing to behold...witness such here:
3:51.0 Filbert Bayi (Tanzania) '75
3:51.1 Jim Ryun (Kansas) '67
3:51.3 Ryun '66
3:52.0 Ben Jipcho (Kenya) '73
3:52.2 Marty Liquori (NYAC) '75
3:52.6 Bayi '73
3:52.8 Ryun (Club West) '72
3:53.1 Kipchoge Keino (Kenya) '67
3:53.2 Ryun '67
3:53.2 Tony Waldrop (North Carolina) '74
3:53.3 Dave Wottle (Bowling Green) '73
3:55.3 Eammon Coghlan (Ireland / Villanova) '75
3:53.6 Michel Jazy (France) '65
3:53.8 Jurgen May (East Germany) '65
3:53.8 Bodo Tummler (West Germany) '68
3:53.8 Rick Wohlhuter (Univ. Chicago Track Club) '75
3:54.1 Peter Snell (New Zealand) '64
3:54.5 Herb Elliott (Australia) '58

Check out the video of The Dream Mile on May 17, 1975:

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