Roger Bannister, a 25-year-old British medical student, was the first to run a mile in less than four minutes. His clocked time on May 6, 1954, was 3 mins 59.4 seconds. A month later his Australian rival, John Landy, lopped nearly a full two seconds off Bannister's time with new world record of 3 minutes 57.9 seconds.
The four-minute "barrier" was not much of a barrier at all, as improvements in the world record for the mile have been steady both before and after that threshold was crossed. In 2007 the world record for the mile is held by the Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj, timed at 3 minutes 43.13 seconds in Rome, Italy (July 7, 1999).