Today’s Illustration: Impossible?

Bannister_and_Landy statue Vancouver Thought To Be Impossible!

On This Day: May 6, 1954

Roger Bannister, a medical student at the time, took a train to Oxford to join up with two other teammates to run against Oxford.  Few, if any, realized that it would be the day when the four-minute mile was broken by Roger Banister.

“There was a fifteen-mile-an-hour crosswind during the race, and gusts touched twenty-five miles an hour just before the event began. Track authorities said they thought Bannister would have come close to 3:58 had there been no wind. But out of long experience with English weather, Bannister said later, there “comes a moment when you have to accept the weather and have an all-out effort, and I decided today was the day.”

Bannister recalled that “he had run his first race here as an Oxford freshman and that his time then was over 5 minutes. Bannister said casually he thought that ‘the 4-minute mile has been overestimated.’ “

“Then astonishingly — at least from the vantage point of the 21st century — Bannister, at the height of his athletic career, retired from competitive running later that year, to concentrate on medicine.”


The History:

Roger Banister:  Born March 23, 1929

Bannister began his career at the age of 17, in 1946.

Roger Bannister practiced an hour a day, personally limited by his pursuit of his medical education.

In 1948 he was an Olympic hopeful, but at the time had no interest in being considered.

After the 1948 Olympics, he was inspired and set his sights on the 1952 Olympics in Helinski.

Up to this time, breaking the four-minute mile was not only elusive but believed to be unattainable.

In 1949 he won several mile races, winning with a time of 4:11.

In 1950 he ran a 4:09.9

In 1951 he ran a 4:07.8 at the AAA Championships with 47,000 people watching and defeating the previous record holder —  Bill Nackeville, British National Champion — who had won the AAA championship four-times previous and whose best record had been 4:08.8.

The previous record was set by Gunder Haegg of Sweden — 4:01.4 — nine years previous (July 17, 1945).

On 2 May 1953, he made an attempt to break the Oxford & British record.  Bannister ran 4:03.6 — “This race made me realize that the four-minute mile was not out of reach.”

On May 6, 1954, the winds had reached up to 25 mph.  Bannister was going to forgo running and save his energy to break the four-minute mile at another meet.  However, because the winds lessened just before the race began, he decided to run.

As Norris McWhirter was announcing his time, as he said — “The times was three . . . .” — the crowd erupted in cheers and most never heard the actual time.

Initially, Roger Bannister’s record was believed to be a sports myth because no one believed that a man could run under four minutes.

Roger Bannister beat John Landy to breaking the record and running a mile under four minute.

Roger Bannister’s record lasted 46 days – Broken on June 21, 1954, by his previous rival “Landy” (John Landy of Australia) in Finland — 3:57.9

Bannister_and_Landy statue Vancouver.jpg  “Statue in Vancouver immortalizing the moment in “The Miracle Mile” when Roger Bannister passed John Landy, with Landy looking back to gauge his lead.”

Roger Banister because a neurologist and practiced medicine until 1993.

“In 2014, Bannister said in an interview: ‘I’d rather be remembered for my work in neurology than my running. If you offered me the chance to make a great breakthrough in the study of the automatic nerve system, I’d take that over the four-minute mile right away. I worked in medicine for sixty years. I ran for about eight.'”

Bannister was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and announced it in May of 2014.

Roger Banister died this year — March 3, 2018 — at the age of 88.  Those who lived in the world of track and field during in the 1950’s and 60’s probably caught the story of his death, but many others probably missed it.

Phil Knight stated that it was Roger Bannister who inspired him to start Nike.  Knight ran track under coach Bill Bowerman at the University of Oregon.

“Sitting at the dinner table one night in the summer of 1954, my father asked me if I would like to go to Vancouver to see the British Empire Games. “It will be as close as you or I will ever get to actually seeing an Olympics,” he said, “and it ends with the Miracle Mile, the race between the world’s only four-minute milers.” Coming just months after that record was first broken by Roger Bannister, who died on March 3 at 88, it was a gift from a busy, somewhat distant father to a dutiful, shy son.

The race did not disappoint. I was spellbound for all four laps. At the half-mile, the loudspeaker announced the time: “1:58 …” The tenths were drowned out by the roar of the crowd that grew over the next two minutes. The excitement faded, my father turned to me, in one of his teachable moments, and said, “Never in your life will you ever see two men run under four minutes in a single race.” His forecast missed, but it was the best bonding time of our lives. Looking back, there was something else going on that day too. It drove home the magic a great sporting event can weave: the ability of the moment to inspire. For Bannister, the victor, lying exhausted, he had to be saying to himself, “I did it.” He had done far more than he ever could have imagined.”  — This appears in the March 19, 2018 issue of TIME.

“Roger Bannister is the best example of someone doing something where your brain says no, but your heart says ’Yes, you can.’’ — IAAF president and former mile world record holder Lord Sebastian Coe


Today’s Record:  Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj,  3:43.13 run in Rome, Italy — July 7, 1999


From “The Four Minute Mile” by Roger Bannister

“The year 2004 is the 50th anniversary of the first four-minute mile.  . . . . The barrier of four minutes had been believed to be insurmountable.  John Landy, my great Australian rival, who had run three 4 minute 2-second miles said, “Two little seconds are not much, but when you’re on the track those fifteen yards seem solid and impenetrable, like a cement wall.’  But, as a medical student and physiologist, I knew this could not be true.”

The satisfaction we derive from games is complex.  We enjoy struggling to get the best out of ourselves, whether we play games of skill requiring quickness of eye and deftness of touch, or games of effort and endurance like athletics. . . . . For nearly ten years I have run about 25 miles a week:  my grasp of the reason why I run continues to row. . . . I find in running — win or lose — a deep satisfaction that I cannot express in any other way . . . . It brings a joy, freedom and challenge which cannot be found elsewhere.” 

“It still seems strange to me that the intrinsically simple and unimportant act of placing one foot in from of the other as fast as possible for 1,760 yards was heralded as such an important sporting achievement.  I suppose the appeal lies in its very simplicity, four laps in four minutes — it needs no money, no equipment, and, in a world of increasingly complex technology, it was out a naive statement about our name.  A man could, with his own two feet, overcome all difficulties to read a pinnacle upon which he could declare, ‘ No one has ever done this before,’”  


Key Illustrative Thoughts:

Someone had to be the first.
There are many “first.”
Yes, you can!
Sixty years compared to eight.
What means more is helping people!
Two men running in a single race!
No one ever did this before!
Don’t look back when running a race.
Inspire to build a brand from one, in a cloud of witnesses!
It doesn’t take anything but our two feet.
It can’t be found anywhere else — or can it?
Never think it is out of reach.
The feat is overestimated!
When two seconds seems like a cement wall.
Two second doesn’t seem like much, but it can be a lot!
Who knew?
Maybe I’ll wait for a different or a better day to try.


Additional Information & Links

Bannister: Everest on the Track, The Roger Bannister Story is a 2016 TV documentary


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