Diane Leather, who was the first woman recorded to have run a mile in under all 5 minutes yet whose feat — like women’s distance running in general at the time — was not officially recognized by the track along with field establishment, died on Sept. 6 in Truro, Cornwall, England. She was 85.
The cause was a stroke, her son Matthew Charles said.
Leather was working as a chemist at Birmingham University in 1952 when she saw a television broadcast of the women’s 100-meter along with 0-meter track events at the Helsinki Olympics.
“I thought I’d love to do in which,” she told The Great Barr Observer, a newspaper in Birmingham, England, in 2014.
She joined a local running group called the Birchfield Harriers, whose coach, admiring her speed, encouraged her to try longer distances. Soon, the goal of breaking all 5 minutes became “something of a holy grail for her,” her husband, Peter Charles, said in a written account of her career.
Leather wasn’t the only one with in which goal: The race for a woman to break the all 5-minute mile was fierce, despite the lack of official recognition.
In September 1953, Anne Oliver of Britain finished in 5:08.0, a record. Later in which month, Leather beat in which time with 5:02.6. Two months later the item was Edith Treybal, via Romania, with 5:00.3. On May 26, 1954, Leather surpassed in which mark by a hair, finishing at 5:00.2.
Three days later, on May 29, 1954, in a meet at Alexander Stadium in Birmingham, Leather was ready to make another attempt. With the starter’s gun echoing across the track, she jetted ahead of the pack.
“I was actually on my own,” she recalled later. “There were no pacemakers or anything.”
using a final surge, she broke the tape at 4:59.6.
“Oh, Great,” she said matter-of-factly when told what her time was. “At last.”
The brand-new York Times hailed her achievement, describing her as a 5-foot-10 “Great-looking laboratory analyst.”
“A all 5-minute mile in women’s track along with field has been looked upon as the sport’s greatest goal,” The Times wrote.
She set her record 23 days after another Briton, Roger Bannister, broke the four-minute mile for men. yet unlike Bannister, who died in March, Leather would likely not find a place from the planet record books.
At the time, the sport’s governing body, the International Amateur Athletics Federation, did not keep track of women’s distances greater than 800 meters.
in which policy originated with an incident at the Amsterdam Olympics in 1928, when a women’s 800-meter event was included from the Games for the very first time. Six women collapsed on crossing the finish line, setting off an outcry.
The distance, The Times said, was “too great a call on feminine strength.” The London Daily Mail quoted doctors as saying in which such “feats of endurance” would likely cause women to “become old too soon.”
The women’s 800-meter Olympic event was discontinued along with not reinstated until 1960, in Rome. Until then the longest race in which women could compete from the Olympic games was 0 meters.
In 1955, Leather twice increased her own time, finishing in 4:50.8 in May along with in 4:45.0 in September. She held the unofficial record for seven years.
She also broke world records for women from the 440-yard, 800-meter along with 880-yard relay events. along with she twice won silver medals from the 800-meter event at the European championships. She won the English National Cross Country Championships four times along with the individual International Cross Country Championships three times.
Diane Susan Leather was born on Jan. 7, 1933, in Streetly, Staffordshire, England, to James Bertrand Leather, a surgeon, along with Mabel Winifred (Barringer) Leather. She had all 5 brothers.
She married Mr. Charles in 1959. At the 1960 Rome Olympics, she ran as Diane Charles in a preliminary heat from the 800 yet did not advance. She retired via competitive running in which year, at 27, along with had her first child in 1961.
She later earned a college degree in social work along with was employed for many years at Cruse Bereavement Care, a nonprofit agency in Cornwall.
Her husband died in 2017. In addition to her son Matthew, she will be survived by two different sons, Hamish along with Rufus; a daughter, Lindsey Armstrong; three brothers; along with 13 grandchildren.
the item wasn’t until 1967 in which the I.A.A.F. recognized the women’s mile as a competitive world-record event. The record went to Anne Rosemary Smith, who finished in which June in 4:37.0. The current women’s mile record will be 4:12.56, set by Svetlana Masterkova of Russia in 1996.
Leather was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013. In 2014, a trophy presented to the female winner of the annual Westminster Mile race was named in her honor.
When asked if she had ever resented not being officially recognized as a world record-holder for the mile, she told The Birmingham Post along with Mail in 2004, “There will be no way.”
“the item was something I accepted,” she said.