Q&A #16

Who was the first person to break 4-minutes in the Indoor Mile?

James ("Jim") Tully Beatty
 (born October 28, 1934 in New York, New York) is a former American track and field athlete who is best remembered as the first person to break the four-minute mile barrier on an indoor track when he ran 3:58.9 on February 10, 1962 in Los Angeles, California.

Beatty graduated from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 1957 where his best time in the mile was a 4:06. He was an All-Americanfor the two miles in 1955 and 1957 and for the 5,000 meters in 1956. Beatty was also the Atlantic Coast Conference champion in the mile in 1955 and 1956.

In 1960, Beatty moved to California to train under Mihály Iglói, and in 1961, he joined the Los Angeles Track Club. Beatty broke eleven American and three world records in 1962, and became the first American to simultaneously hold records in the 1,500 meter, 3,000 meter, 5,000 meter, one and three mile events. Because of his outstanding performance he was named the 1962 James E. Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete. He was also the first recipient of the ABC's Wide World of Sports Athlete of the Year that year.

Inducted into USA T&F Hall of Fame in 1990

Born: October 28, 1934 - New York, New York


  • 1,500 m - 3:39.40
  • 1 mi. - 3:55.50
  • 2 mi. - 8:30
  • 5,000 m - 13:45.00

Jim Beatty is best remembered as the first man to break the four-minute mile barrier indoors with a 3:58.9 performance in February 1962 in Los Angeles, surpassing the existing record by 2.5 seconds. The performance served as a harbinger of a great year for the diminutive Beatty (5' 6", 130 lbs.) That year, he set American records in five events during a 16-day stretch, which included the 1500m (Oslo, Aug. 9), mile (Helsinki, Aug. 21), 3000m (Avranches, France, Aug. 15) and both the 3 mile and 5000m in one race (Turku, Finland, Aug. 24). Beatty became the first American to hold records simultaneously in all events from 1500 to 5000 meters. That magical year saw Beatty break a total of seven U.S. records and a world record at 2 miles. Beatty earned the 1960 Sullivan Award as the nation's top amateur athlete. Beatty's transformation from a capable but unheralded college runner to record setter began in 1959 when he moved to California to join the training group of legendary coach Mihaly Igloi. Competing for the Los Angeles Track Club, Beatty made the 1960 Olympic team but failed to advance to the 5000m final in Rome. He earned four national titles during his career, winning the mile in 1962 and earning indoor mile titles from 1961 to 1963. He was second in the 1500m in the 1963 Pan American Games. Following his running career, Beatty headed up an executive search firm. He also went into politics, serving as a state legislator in North Carolina but failing in his bid to win a seat in the U.S. Senate.

Records Held
World Record: 2 mi. - 8:30 (June 8, 1962 - )
American Record: 1,500 m - 3:39.40 (August 9, 1962 - )
American Record: 5,000 m - 13:45.00 (August 24, 1962 - )

1960 Olympics: 5,000 m
1961 AAU Indoors: 1 mi. (1st)
1962 AAU: 1 mi. (1st)
1962 AAU Indoors: 1 mi. (1st)
1963 AAU Indoors: 1 mi. (1st)
1963 Pan Am Games: 1,500 m (2nd)

high school: Central (Charlotte, North Carolina), 1953
undergraduate: North Carolina (Chapel Hill, North Carolina), 1957

Executive recruiter