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Nick Willis coy about world record-breaking mile feat - 'It's given me a chance to reflect'

Nick Willis has etched his name in the history books with a world record in Florida, although the 37-year-old is humbly playing down the milestone with his sights set on Tokyo.

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The Kiwi runner surpassed legend John Walker for most consecutive years running a sub-four-minute mile, with 19. Source: 1 NEWS

Willis clocked a 3:58:63 at the Orange Winter Classic meet in Clermont, Florida, to surpass fellow New Zealander Sir John Walker for the most consecutive years with a sub-four-minute mile.

The 37-year-old's effort this morning saw him beat Sir John's mark of 18 years, although he told 1 NEWS he doesn't feel like his record of 19 years is particularly groundbreaking.

"World records is probably a bit of an exaggerated, or glamourised term perhaps," Willis told 1 NEWS. 

"It's a bit of an obscure record, but no, it's really cool. It's given me a chance to reflect back to the beginning when the whole sub-four thing started for me in 2003, I haven't reflected that far back before.

"Thinking about those past races, it's sort of gone full circle. I remember talking to dad after that race, and did this time too. So it's been a lot of fun."

Sir John accomplished the previous record between 1973 and 1990 while Willis' streak stretches from 2003 to this year.

Although it was a special moment for him, Willis told 1 NEWS it was also a relatively quiet one with strict Covid-19 protocols in place making the event athlete-only.

"There were literally only about five people there ... it felt like I was at a club night in Whanganui," he said.

"It was special because it wasn't such a grand occasion. It was about reflecting on my own career and the unique opportunity and privilege I’ve had to still be able to put one foot in front of the other, and not be injured, and not suffer the pitfalls others have suffered."

Willis added he feels blessed and fortunate in hindsight.

"I'm a product of being here because so many people have helped get me here, that's the main thing I've been reflecting on."

But the two-time Olympic medallist isn't stopping here with his eyes still firmly fixed on racing in the Tokyo Olympics later this year.

"I have five races over the next five weeks of really high quality," Willis said. 

"It's an opportunity to race against some of the best guys in North America. We're all chomping at the bit with the 2021 Olympic year here now."