Post by Bryan Styble
Well, here's a huge one, at least to us lifelong joggers born the same
year he so famously clocked 3:59.4 in England on Thursday, May 6,
Wikipedia editors have added the death on Saturday, March 3rd in
Oxford, of Sir Roger Bannister at 88.
Sir Roger Bannister, first athlete to break four-minute mile, dies aged
Bannister set world record by running mile in 3min 59.4 secs
Former athlete died in his sleep surrounded by family
Sir Roger Bannister, the first athlete to break the four-minute mile, has
died. He was 88.
A statement released on behalf of his family said he had died in his
sleep surrounded by his family, who were as loved by him as he was loved
by them. He banked his treasure in the hearts of his friends.
After Bannister broke the mile record, running three minutes, 59.4
seconds at the Iffley Road sports ground in Oxford on 6 May 1954, he
collapsed into a pack of men, his body feeling like an exploding
flashbulb. Then came the words that revived him quicker than any pick-
me-up. Result of event eight: one mile. First, RG Bannister of Exeter
and Merton colleges, in a time which, subject to ratification, is a new
track record, British record, European record, Commonwealth record and
world record three minutes and
The rest of the sentence was drowned by
Bannister, then a 25-year-old medical student, had broken a mark many
felt was impossible. His record stood for just 46 days but his place in
history was instantly assured.
At the end of 1954, Bannister retired from athletics to pursue his
medical studies full-time and later became a consultant neurologist and
the first chairman of the Sports Council. He was diagnosed with
Parkinsons disease in 2011, but speaking to the Guardian in 2014 he said
he felt blessed by having lived such a happy life.
Im slow and need help walking but Im taking it with a proper sense of
perspective, he said. I have had many opportunities. I also have many
friends and a very supportive family. These are all things I bless myself
Bannister had intended to keep his record attempt quiet. But his friend
Norris McWhirter later, appropriately, a presenter of Record Breakers,
alerted the press. The BBC sent a lone cameraman, who captured the race
from top of his van parked in the centre of the track. The footage was
quickly sent back to London where it would be shown on that evenings
Bannisters performance was more remarkable still given his lack of
training. He would skip his gynaecology lectures, enabling him to run for
45 minutes at lunchtime, and did only 35 miles a week. Six weeks after
his mile feat the Australian John Landy shed a further second off the
record. But later in 1954, when the pair met at the Empire Games in
Vancouver, Bannister emerged triumphant after an epic contest later
describe as the Miracle Mile, coming from 15 yards down with a surprise
sprint off the last bend.
Speaking to the Guardian in 2014, Bannister said his record-breaking run
almost did not happen because of the 25mph winds.
I got to the track at 4.30pm but didnt decide to race until about half
an hour before it was due to start at 6pm, he said. My pacemakers Chris
Brasher and Chris Chataway were getting a little impatient. They were
saying: Make up your mind! But it was I who had to do it. I was very
concerned about the weather but when the wind dropped it proved just
That day he had had a breakfast of porridge at his flat in Earls Court,
west London, then a ham and cheese salad at a friends in Oxford for
lunch. In between he spent the morning at hospital, where he sharpened
his spikes on a grindstone in a laboratory, before catching the train to
Back then he talked through the race fluently but dispassionately the
anger he felt after a false start by Brasher. Then feeling so full of
energy on the first lap that he was shouting: Faster!. And then the
fear at the end of the 62.4sec third lap when the record appeared to be
I heard the lap times as they went by, he said. The first was 58. The
half-mile 1.58. But the three-quarters was three minutes and one second
so I knew I had to produce a last lap of under 59.
I was also unsure whether I should start my finish immediately or wait
another 150 yards and overtake Chataway in the back straight. I decided I
would stay a bit longer and then went. There was plenty of adrenaline
then, I can assure you.
The current mile world record is held by the Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj,
who ran 3:43.13 in Rome on 7 July 1999.
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