On the sixth of May 1954, Roger Bannister, a Harrow native, became the first person to run a mile in under four minutes. With a time of 3 minutes 5.4 seconds (a bit dramatic, Roger), an interesting thing occurred when Mr Bannister’s torso pieced the wire across the finish line.
His physical accomplishment cemented him into athletic history, but the ramifications of achieving once inconquerable feet had a demystifying effect upon self-imposed social limitations.
In the same year, on the 21st June 1954, Mr John Landy, an Australian athlete, broke Mr Bannisters record to become the second man to run a mile under four minutes. Since 1954, 1,663 athletes have broken the four-minute barrier.
Roger Bannister’s historic achievement would not have happened without Christopher Chataway and Christopher Brasher’s aid (as pace setters). The weather conditions on the 6th May 1954 were not favourable.
Still, Mr Bannister decided to run twenty minutes before the race began, staring at the St George’s flag hanging above a church steeple, softened by the calming winds.
The race began at 6pm, Christopher Brasher established the lead, and Bannister effortlessly slid behind him. Zealous to achieve his goal, Bannister shouted at Brasher, “faster, faster” Brasher maintained his composure to ensure Bannister did not exhaust himself.
One and a half laps into the race, Bannister was in a state of zen; he felt as if his brain had detached from his body. Before ¾ of a mile, Chataway bursts into the lead, and Bannister barely notices. Approaching the back-straight, Bannister realised the four-minute mile was in his grasp and decided to merciless pursue the finish.
Bannister slumped over the finish line, held up by each arm with a brief scare of blindness from exhaustion, listening intently for the announcer’s verdict.
“Mr R.G.Bannister of Exeter and Merton college in a time which in ratification is a track record an English native record a United Kingdom record a European record in a time of 3….” The crowd erupted, drowning out the remainder of the announcement.
This achievement may never have happened if Mr Bannister had medaled in the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki, Finland. But a fourth-place finish ensured Bannister delayed his athletic retirement.
Roger Bannister retired from athletics in 1954 and dedicated himself to the field of neurology for the remainder of his adult life. Mr Bannister proclaims his greatest achievement was not running a mile in under four minutes but his forty-year service in medicine.
Sir Roger Bannister died on the 3rd of March 2018 after several years with Parkinson’s disease. Harrow paid homage to this historical figure by naming a sports centre “The Bannister Outdoor Sports Centre.” where young Harrovians can hone their athletic ability and may make a global impact like Sir Roger Bannister.