Running "The Mile" is part of the folklore of physical achievement, generally associated with questions whether you can do a sub-10, sub-5 or, as Sir Roger Bannister was to discover first, sub-4.
Bannister's feat over the empirical distance is legendary and New Zealanders Jack Lovelock, Sir Peter Snell and Sir John Walker each held the world record. However, everyone has the right to be a legend in their own lunchtime, or whenever they can tie their laces and pound the pavement.
Nick and Sierra Willis have seized on this human curiosity, and are building a business around it.
They have developed a six-week online boot camp called The Miler Method, which enables athletes to link with others to get fit and ultimately improve their mile time once the training is complete.
The double Olympic medallist and his wife came up with the idea when Sierra wanted a break from the monotonous training that comes with preparing for longer races over 10km, the half marathon and marathon.
"Sierra would attend my trainings and, as she trudged through those other programmes, she wondered why she couldn't do my training," Willis said. "There's more variety to work on speed, power and endurance. She wondered why that was reserved for elite athletes, and whether it could be structured for her ability level. Some of her friends joined and it snowballed.
"I've always wanted to be involved in coaching, but as a professional athlete, I can't be at the track with a stopwatch. This way, we can do it anywhere in the world using the knowledge we've gained over the years while I pursue my own career."
The programmes cost US$72 ($103), putting them on an investment par with entering longer distance races. They include a series of recommended track and hill workouts, alongside video tips and advice from the information Team Willis have compiled over the years. Those involved in the programme can interact to build camaraderie and motivation.
"It's a way for people to help overcome their fatigue and tiredness from 9-5 jobs, or whatever is holding them back," Willis said.
"The mile can be something you run as fast as you can, or simply try to finish. It can cater to anybody's ability. Running doesn't just have to be jogging along.
"Our target market was people between the ages of 25 and 55. More men than women have signed up at this stage. A lot of guys want to rekindle what they had in high school, rediscover a bit of that speed, and prove they've still got it."
Willis is a case in point. At 33, he beat a group of mainly 20-somethings to claim a bronze in the Rio Olympic 1500m, becoming the oldest man to reach the podium in the event. As he puts it: "Age doesn't slow you down; slowing down makes you age."
As living proof, Sierra's 63-year-old mum, who had never done any significant running in her life, joined with three of her friends who wanted to improve their fitness as dog agility coaches. A couple of 73-year-olds have also signed on.
Many want to pursue milestones, so to speak, like going under five minutes.
"The beauty of the mile is, if you miss out on a time, you can have another crack in a couple of weeks," Willis said. "It's not like the marathon or half marathon where your legs tend to be battered and bruised and you regroup six months later."
The programme, starting January 9, coincides with attempting a mile-best on February 25 at Rangitoto College, and the following day at AUT's Millennium Institute. The latter forms part of a People's Mile in the preamble to the Auckland Track Challenge.
"We want to target those who find running boring, and tailor their training plans," Willis said. "It's not something to be intimidated by."