Swanson breaks 44 year-long mile record


Eastern Illinois University Athletics

Adam Swanson, a senior criminology major, holds up an OVC championship plaque after the Conference Championship Saturday afternoon, Oct. 29, 2022, at Putnam County Sports Complex in Cookeville, Tenn.

Kate Stevens, Assistant Sports Editor

 Junior track and field distance runner Adam Swanson broke a record that no one has been able to touch in the last 44 years.

He officially has run the fastest mile in EIU history. At the Iowa State Classic on Feb. 4, he ran a mile of 4:03.56, which was just .4 seconds faster than Reo Rorem who set the record in 1979 with a mile of 4:03.6.

Swanson said he was excited when his coach Erin Howarth told him that he had broken the record.

“When I asked my coach, she was telling me and in the moment I’m kind of like ‘oh, stop playing. Did I really?’ and she was like ‘yeah, you did by four 100ths of a second,’” Swanson said, “That was a really good feeling, especially with how old that record was, 44 years, it’s just really awesome and I felt really happy doing that.”

Howarth said Swanson is another example of what hard work paying off looks like. 

Swanson’s record comes after two long-awaited distance records were broken in the fall of 2021 by Dustin Hatfield and Jaime Marcos.

“It’s an amazing feeling to see their hard work pay off, as cliche as that sounds,” Swanson said. “It’s been a great year in that regard, with Dustin breaking a long standing 8k record last fall and then Jaime breaking the indoor 5k record that stood nearly as long as Reo’s mile record from 1979. And now Adam breaks the mile record. And from three different guys breaking those records. It just shows you that these guys have made each other better every day, that they have created a culture of success and hard work and set the expectations of each and every team member higher with their work ethic. It’s so fun to be a part of it”

Howarth said Swanson’s abilities as an athlete are like no other and he is very dedicated to what he does.

“In terms of an athlete, I’ve never seen anyone with the raw speed that Adam has,” Howarth said. “I’ve also never seen anyone with the range Adam has; he can split 47 on a 4×4 leg and race near 24:00 for an 8k and compete at a very high level at any event in between. He’s a very unique young man in that sense.”

Swanson said he grew up running and the pain and mental toughness it has taught him has brought him a long way.

“If you’re not mentally strong, you just can’t push past any significant barriers,” Swanson said. “The pain that teaches you mentally, you know, that’s what makes or breaks you, that’s what makes or breaks your race.”

He said a runner needs to keep up that mentally throughout the race, but even more so at the end of the race.

“I like to tell myself ‘you know what, when it gets harder I get faster, especially toward the end because that’s when everyone’s hurt,’” Swanson said. “And yeah, that’s where I turn on the jets.”

Howarth said Swanson trains hard and that’s what ultimately led him to breaking this record.

“Adam is very smart in the way he trains,” Howarth said. “When he’s supposed to go hard, he goes hard. When it’s an easy day and a day to recover, he does his run at a nice easy pace. He definitely has bought into the philosophy and the training and knows that to continue to grow, he needs to stay consistent and not overdo anything that he does.”

As Swanson is in his third year as a distance runner for track and field and cross country, he has won several accolades and has been one of the top distance runners EIU has had alongside Hatfield and Marcos, as well as others.

After winning both the OVC Male Freshman of the Year and OVC Male Track Athlete of the Year in 2021, he has not let off the breaks and has continued to get better as time goes on.

Swanson said he was a walk-on as he did not receive any scholarships or offers for his running abilities in high school, but he reached out to Howarth to see about running for Eastern.

He said as a walk-on he wanted to do his best and try to earn scholarships for college if at all possible.

He also said training in college is much different as there are different types of workouts that they have to do. 

He said he enjoys it and that working hard in training and on the track and course has paid off.

He said his ultimate goal as a runner is to run a mile in under four minutes.

“Going into the season, [I’m] definitely trying to run under the four minute barrier, that’s a big thing in the sport of running to be able to get under that four minute mark,” Swanson said. “That’s been my goal all year and falling short at 4:03, which is still nothing to be mad about, because I got the school record, but that was the goal.”

Swanson said although he has not reached his ultimate goal as a runner yet, getting down to 4:03 was a big deal for him. He also noted that he had not run a mile competitively in quite a while.

“Opening up the season with that mile was really awesome,” Swanson said. “Just showing what I can do going forward.”

Howarth also said that Swanson was a bit down that he did not quite hit the four minute mark, but it showed that progression throughout the season is something they are looking forward to.

“Honestly, although Adam was very excited about breaking the school record, he was a bit let down as well because he knew it wasn’t his best race,” Howarth said. “It was a great race for sure, but he still had a lot more there to give. Not only had it been a long time since he’d raced the mile, but he had never been in a competitive mile race like that where it was being paced to a sub four minute mile. We are both excited about his next opportunity to be in a big race like that.”

The track team has a few more indoor meets and races before the outdoor season opens up at the end of March. 

Both Howarth and Swanson expressed their excitement to compete as they finish up the indoor and start outdoor meets and races.

Eastern’s track and field and cross country teams have been doing consistently well the last few years and have produced some of the best runners that EIU has had in a long time. As Howarth and Swanson mentioned, this season will be one to look out for as the success is sure to continue.


Kate Stevens can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].