Mile News

Oxford to celebrate 70th anniversary of Bannister’s sub-4 with Mile Festival

March 11, 2024

The greatest athletic achievement of the 20th century will see a community mass Mile in Oxford city center together with BMC races at Iffley Road and much more on Monday, May 6

From Jason Henderson, Athletics Weekly

On May 6 in 1954, a 25-year-old medical student called Roger Bannister created arguably the most iconic moment in the history of athletics. Racing at Iffley Road athletics track in Oxford and helped by training partners and pacemakers Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher, he collapsed over the finish line hoping to have made history. After a tense wait the announcer said: “The result of the one Mile… time… three…”

The rest of the words were drowned out by the cheers of the watching crowd as Bannister became the first man to break coveted 4 minutes barrier. It had beautiful synchrony with 4 laps of one minute. It was also considered impossible, if not deadly, by many. But Bannister ran 3:59.4 to enter athletics immortality.

Over the years there have been several memorable celebrations of the anniversary. Sadly Bannister himself died in 2018, though, so he will not be here for the 70th anniversary, which takes place in less than two months’ time on Monday, May 6.

There were tentative plans last year to stage a celebratory event in Loughborough, but the East Midlands university got wind of the considerable efforts by Oxford University and the British Milers’ Club to stage an event in Oxford, so they stepped aside and, now, Oxford has announced its exciting plans.

Oxford University Athletic Club (OUAC) and the University of Oxford, supported by Oxfordshire County Council, will host a celebration of the life and legacy of Bannister with a community mass Mile through the center of the city and an international track meeting.

Starting at 9:00am, waves of runners in the community Mile will leave St. Aldate’s in the center of the city before running down Oxford’s High Street before finishing on Iffley Road, where they will collect their finisher’s medal on the Roger Bannister track itself.

The community Mile is open to participants of all ages and abilities with World Athletics sponsoring waves for local schoolchildren as part of the governing body’s Global Kids’ Athletics Day, while thousands of people from Oxford and beyond are invited to join in a common celebration of community, sport and physical activity.

Later that day, athletes from across the country will compete in a series of track races organised by OUAC and the BMC, supported by England Athletics. The races will include heats for athletes aged 9 & over, as well as para-athletes and competitive club runners from around 2:30pm to 6:00pm.

Finally – and precisely 70 years after Bannister set off – the meet will conclude with men’s and women’s elite Mile races, where a new generation of athletes will test their limits under the watchful eye of past Mile world record holders.

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Tags: roger bannister (175) , legend (90) , iffley road track (8)

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