Celebrating the enduring flair of the amateur
Roger Bannister, first man sub-4 minutes for the Mile, the "perfect" amateur athlete
By Ian O'Riordan, Irish Times
If I was Sir Roger Bannister, the thought of what’s coming down the track next May would be terrifying. Imagine every sporting media outlet in the world looking for you to help mainline the nostalgia trip and explain what it feels like to be the last of the original sportsmen.
Bannister, fortunately, has never lost his lusty innocence, and 60 years after running the first Mile in less than 4 minutes won’t mind recalling his moment in time in all its glorious detail. He’ll be 85 by then – God willing – and the tale of what he achieved on the old Iffley Road Track that afternoon in 1954 holds up today not just for the sporting milestone it created but for the way he went about it.
“I must be the international athlete who trained least,” Bannister told me, in Dublin, around the time of the 50th anniversary of his 3:59.4. “I had worked out, from my knowledge of physiology, what was the minimum amount of training that would be needed to continue to improve year by year.”
Bannister certainly wasn’t lazy: quite the opposite. The main reason he trained so sparsely was because he was also juggling the demands of his medical studies at Oxford, and actually did a round at St. Mary’s hospital in London on the very morning of his historic run, partly so that he could sharpen his race spikes in the physiology lab. Just six weeks later Bannister completed his medical degree.
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