Mile News

Chilliwack WWII Veteran Claims He Broke 4 Minute Mile Before Bannister

September 04, 2014

By  Paul J. Henderson, Chilliwack Times

Sixty years after British runner Roger Bannister was the first to break the 4 minute barrier in the Mile, a Chilliwack man has a bone to pick with history.

“That pissed me off a little because that’s not true,” Cecil Hansford said during a conversation in his mobile home in Chilliwack.

You see, the 94-year-old Hansford is diminutive in stature but he elicits one huge claim: He ran a sub-4 minute Mile right around the time Bannister hit puberty.

“I broke the 4 minute Mile in 1942, two seconds faster than Roger Bannister.”

Unlikely history rewrite
It was May 6, 1954 on a wet, blustery day when the 25-year-old Bannister, then an English medical student, ran four times around a track at Oxford University in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds.

The world took notice at the run, breaking what seemed to be an unbreakable barrier. Bannister’s name was written on sports history.

But 12 years prior, in the heat of the Second World War on a grass track in Gaza, Palestine, a friendly one-Mile race took place during a military sports day.

Hansford was in the British military, serving as a “fitter” in 211 Squadron of the Royal Air Force. Quite an athlete in his day, the 5’3” Welshman took part in a race with six others, including members of a local Greek unit, which included the Greek Mile champion.

Hansford said he ran the first three laps pacing off the Greek Miler before he took off for the final lap. As he crossed the finish line, a certain Sgt. Burroughs shouted “Do you know you just done the Mile in under four minutes?!”

According to Hansford, those timing the race clocked him at 3:57.7, with the Greek Miler coming in at about four minutes even.

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Tags: roger bannister (175) , cecil hansford (1)

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