If Diane Leather had competed in a more enlightened era, her name would have been prominent amongst World Record holders, and possibly, as an Olympic champion. During the best years of her career, the only official World Record distances longer than 220yd recognised for women were the 800m and 880yd, and no Olympic event was longer than 200m. As a consequence, her name appears only once as an official World Record holder, when she set a new mark of 2min 09.0sec for 880yd on 19 June 1954. However, she set a number of unofficial world records at several distances, including five improvements of the one mile record. She first broke the record in 1953 with a time of 5min 2.6sec, which she improved upon to 5min 00.2sec on 26 May 1954. Three days later she became the first woman to run a sub five minute mile, clocking 4min 59.6sec at Birmingham, less than a month after Roger Bannister's first sub four minute mile. In 1955, she reduced the record on two more occasions, clocking 4min 50.8sec in May and finally 4min 45.0sec on 21 September. At other distances, she tied Pamela Bryant's (Australia) World Record of 56.6sec for 440yd in 1954 and broke the 1500m World Record twice in 1967, recording 4min 30.0sec at Hornchurch in May, and later 4min 29.7sec at London on 19 July. In major championships, she finished second in the 800m at the 1954 European Championships behind Nina Otkalenko (USSR), and second again at the 1958 European Championships behind Yelizaveta Yermolayeva (USSR). Unfortunately she was well past her best by the time the 800m was recalled into the Olympic Program in 1960 at Rome. By then she had married, and competing as Mrs Diane Charles, was eliminated after finishing fifth in her first round heat. (Ron Casey)
1954: 2nd 800m Europeans
1958: 2nd 800m Europeans
1960: ht 800m Olympics
UK Internationals: 16 (1954-60)
Won WAAA 880y 1954-5, 1957; 1M 1956-7; National CC 1953-6.
400m 56.3 (1955), 440y 56.6 (1954), 800m 2:06.6 (1958), 1500m 4:22.2 (1955), 1M 4:45.0 (1955).