IT TOOK a sub four-minute mile for Eric Speakman to race into the record book of athletics in New Zealand but there was no stopping his mind and body long after that night.

"The elation lasted a long time and I only slept for one hour that night," says Speakman, of Napier, after he clocked 3m 57.30s to become the 39th New Zealander to achieve that feat since Sir Peter Snell more than 50 years ago.

"The blood was pumping and every time I thought about it my heart would race again," says the 25-year-old who was third on Tuesday last week at the Cooks Gardens Classic in Whanganui to register the 16th best time from a Kiwi.

He was among elite company with Olympic 1500m silver medallist Nick Willis winning his fifth sub four-minute time of 3:55:56 and runner up Hamish Carson (3:56:72) claiming his second sub four-minute miler.


"Even if I had finished seventh that day and got that time I would have been just as happy," says Speakman after realising a childhood dream.

"I started running with the Napier Harriers Club when I was 7 so I carried on up to 18 years," says the former Taradale High School pupil who took a competitive stance at 15 after adopting a regimented six-day-a-week training schedule under Bay coach Mick Cull.

Sir Peter broke Herb Elliott's world record for a mile on a grass track on January 27, 1962, stopping the clock at 3:54.4.

The multiple Olympic gold medallist (800m and 1500m) and multiple world record holder, who Arthur Lydiard coached, retired from running in 1965 to settle and work in Texas, where he still lives.

Speakman, who has graduated from Stony Brook University in the US last year with a degree in science and management with a double major in economics, is now focused on making the cut to the Rio Olympics in August this year.

That campaign will take him to Europe from April, where he will be based in Belgium to join an altitude camp before competing in numerous races in other countries to make the 1500m Olympics qualifying time of 3:36:20.

With his Cooks Classic time, he believes shaving off a shade over 600m from the mile will put him in good stead for the 1500m mark.

"The miler is a promising time to be running so quickly so, hopefully, I'll take off a few more seconds off come July."


When Speakman left here for varsity in the US five years ago, he had a PB of 3:51 but working under Stony Brook coach Andy Ronan he docked off nine seconds by the time he returned home last year.

Frustratingly he nursed injuries at Stony Brook so he focused on a few outdoor trials.

Willis' older brother, Steve, of Wellington, has been coaching Speakman since last November.

Speakman only competed in his third mile last Tuesday, opting out of the Allan and Sylvia Potts Memorial Classic in Hastings the week before because 800m was the only middle-distance race.

In his build up, he had competed in the Peak Trail Blazer to help raise funds for Havelock North Primary School.

Last month Speakman took part in a 5km run in Auckland, using it more as a "fitness indicator".


He isn't looking for a job pertaining to his tertiary qualifications right now. He has shelved those ambitions to accomplish his running goals.

That means working at the Watties factory in Hastings to muster funds to capture the European and American athletics seasons.

"I'm still self-funded so I'm not quite semi-professional because I'm not getting any help at all.

"At the moment I'm still chasing the dream off my own back, kind of thing," he says, hoping to secure sponsorship along the way.

Reflecting on Cooks Classic, Speakman says they couldn't have asked for better conditions on a balmy night.

"It was a perfect set up with Brad Mathas setting the pace to the half way mark and Nick running hard to take over," he says, not having to worry about positioning or getting in each other's way.


A lot of credit has to go to Nick for setting it up for the rest of the younger ones as he gets older."

Speakman says while Willis "dragged us all around" in the mile he was capable of slashing 2-3 more seconds off his time.

Having exceeded his expectations, the Napier Harrier says: "It's one race that went perfectly for me and I wouldn't change much about it."

Speakman excelled in all facets of university life which was acknowledged when he was named the 2014-15 America East Man of the Year in Bretton Woods, New Hampshire.

The honour recognised him as the conference's senior male student athlete who excelled throughout his university career in academic achievement, athletic excellence, service and leadership.