Friday, September 7, 2018

V8 N. 56 Diane Leather, R.I.P. First Sub 5 Minute Women's Miler

Our hats are off to an unsung heroine , Diane Leather.
Diane Leather (Charles) 1933-2018
On May 29, 1954 only 23 days after Roger Bannister first broke the 4 minute mile, another British citizen became  the first woman to break the 5 minute mile.  Diane Leather a 21 year old analytical chemist at the University of Birmingham broke the 5 minute barrier in the Midlands Championships.  Of note, she was not paced in her race like Bannister had been  by Chataway and Brasher.  She set her mile mark  after she had run an 880 earlier in the afternoon.  So she was doubling back when she broke the record,  not a world record unfortunately, because the IAAF did not recognize world records for women beyond 800 meters in those days.  So she was given a World Best.  

Diane's coach was Dorette Nelson Neal who drilled her  5 days a week with hard intervals from 150 to 440 yards.  So her achievement was one of hard work not just natural ability.  Her home club was the Birchfield Harriers.   

For the next year she worked on improving her personal best and brought the standard down to 4:45.  Her best time in the 800m where she twice won silver in the 1954 and 1958 European Championships was 2:06.6.  By 1960 when the 800m was an event at the Rome Olympics, Diane was well past her prime and was eliminated in the heats in 2:14.  She went on to become a social worker in her homeland.

Because women's track and field was not recognized by many in those days, Diane was never suitably honored or given credit for her achievement in the sport.  Even now her name is scarely recognized and her work was never credited with honors such as Sir Roger was given.   Our collective hats are tipped to Diane Leather and followed by three  hearty 'huzzahs' .

The film clip below is of Diane, a few weeks after her sub 5,  unsuccessfully  attempting to bring down the record further but  having a slightly off day at 5:02 again pretty much on her own.

Almost a 5 Minute Mile

 Very nice piece on Diane Leather complete with a video.  I so much enjoyed people of both genders rooting her on to 5:00.2.  This makes me think of so many others who preceded the NCAA, IAAF (women's distances), and all other governing bodies who were not open to women's distance races or even recognizing their records.  Steve coached many such people for the Kettering Striders which was only one small club in one country.  Although they are not known it doesn't mean it didn't happen.  Thanks to people like you their legacy is recognized.

1 comment:

Alf Shrubb said...

Thank you for your blog entry on Diane Leather. The video was actually of Diane setting a World Best of 5:00.2 at Perry Barr, Birmingham on 26 May 1954, just 3 days before she broke the 5-minute barrier with 4:59.6 at the same stadium on 29 May 1954.

V 9 N. 20 A New Record in the Women's Mile and a Book Review

I hope you were able to watch Sifan Hassan of the Netherlands set a new World Record in the women's mile in Monaco this past Friday.  ...