“The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.”
We were deeply saddened by the announcement today of the death, aged 88, of Sir Roger Bannister.
Bannister began his running career whilst studying medicine at Exeter College, Oxford. Prior to running at Oxford Bannister had never worn spikes or even run on a track. Inspired by the great miler Sidney Wooderson, and by watching the 1948 Olympics, Bannister set his sights on the Helsinki ’52 Olympics.
Although he considered giving up running entirely after a disappointing performance at the Olympics, Bannister instead decided to set his sights on a new goal - to be the first man to run a mile under 4 minutes. He became just that on the 6th May 1954 on a wet and windy day at Oxford’s Iffley Road Track. With Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway acting as pacemakers Bannister stormed over the finish line in 3 minutes 59.4 with the commentator Ross McWhirter’s voice being drowned out by the roar of the crowds as soon as he had uttered the number 3.
Criticised for his innovative and unusual interval training with a highly focused weekly mileage (especially after he failed to bring home any medals from Helsinki) Bannister showed incredible foresight and determination to stick with his regime. Although making history and becoming a true running legend immortalised by his sub four minute mile Bannister himself, who went on to become an influential contributor to academic medicine, saw his subsequent forty years practicing as a neurologist as more significant than his achievement of the 6th May 1954.