Roger Bannister: ‘The day I broke the 4 minute Mile’
In an extract from his new book, "Twin Tracks", Bannister recounts how he prepared for his unforgettable, legendary race
Sixty years ago, on May 6, 1954, at Iffley Road track in Oxford, Roger Bannister became the first man in recorded history to run a Mile in under 4 minutes. Bannister, who had read medicine at Oxford, went on to become a distinguished doctor and neurologist once his amateur athletic career had ended. Now 85, he still receives letters telling him how he inspired a generation. Here, he remembers that remarkable day...
My failure to win the 1500m gold medal at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952, when I had been the favorite, was a huge knock to my pride, shattering to my friends and family and to the Great British public. I felt it was necessary to restore the faith that had been so shaken by my defeat.
Whether we athletes liked it or not, the 4 minute Mile had become rather like an Everest – a challenge to the human spirit. It was a barrier that seemed to defy all attempts to break it, an irksome reminder that man’s striving might be in vain. The Scandinavians, with their reverence for the magic of sport, called it the “Dream Mile”.
For me, I felt I was now defending a cause. Throughout the winter of 1952–53, I stepped up the severity of my training program. In December 1952, John Landy of Australia, who had been knocked out in my heat at the Olympic Games, had startled the world by running a Mile in 4 minutes, 2.1 seconds. I could hardly believe the improvement from the runner I had known at Helsinki. Landy made no secret of the fact that the 4 minute Mile was his goal.
If I was going to attack the 4 minute Mile, the problem was to decide how and where the race should be run. There were four essential requirements: a good track, absence of wind, warm weather and even-paced running.
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