Meanwhile, young U.S. milers are starting further back than ever. The last time a U.S. schoolboy ran a mile in under four minutes was in 1967, when Liquori did it. "You could argue that since you're not getting the amazing abilities that you once did," says Snell, "the lack of long-term coaching relationships is really hurtful. It can't be compensated for by freakish talent."
If Snell is right, he foretells a melancholy future. Barring a revolution that splits American schools from American track, the mile will go on this way, a peculiar event, strangely, unintentionally, undeniably abused.