On Sunday, the 29-year-old Jamaican sprinter, known as the world's fastest man, became the first man to win gold in the 100-meter dash three Olympics in a row. He crossed the finish line in just 9.81 seconds.
Some arguments said Bolt could probably complete the distance in 3:55.
"With training, I would think Bolt could break five minutes," said Weldon Johnson, a former Olympic-trials distance runner and co-founder of LetsRun.com.
"I'm happy to go on record that I believe Bolt could run a mile in 4:20 right now," said Zebulon Lang, an assistant track and cross-country coach at Cornell University.
Others said the time could be as high as six minutes.
"He's a total fast-twitch-muscle-fiber guy," said Robert Johnson, Weldon Johnson's twin brother and the other founder of LetsRun.com. "To expect Bolt to be good at the mile simply because he is the world's greatest sprinter would be like expecting a great 320-pound NFL offensive lineman to be good at playing running back simply because he's a great football player. It's ludicrous."
One explanation details how Bolt's training doesn't translate into long distance success.
"Speed over short distances does not automatically guarantee relative speed over long distances," said Ross Tucker, a professor of exercise physiology at the University of the Free State, in South Africa. "Mainly because the system used to produce energy sent to muscles is quite different. What a 100- or 200-meter sprinter relies on is incapable of meeting his demands over a mile. By definition, the training a short-distance sprinter does is in polar opposition to that of a middle-distance runner. One-hundred-meter speed translates pretty well up to 400 meters. But after that there is a large change."
While multiple arguments stand, there's no clear answer, and we may never know the time it would take Bolt to run 1600 meters.
"Usain has never run a mile," Simms told The New Yorker.