Roger Bannister, First to Run a 4-Minute Mile, Dies

Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile in under four minutes, has died. He was 88.

Bannister’s family said that he died on Saturday in Oxford, the English city where the runner cracked the feat many had thought humanly impossible.

On a windy late afternoon in Oxford on May 6, 1954, Bannister ran four laps on a cinder track in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds.

When timekeeper Norris McWhirter tried to announce the time of “Three…”, the rest of his words were drowned out by cheers.

Only when he read the newspapers the following day, did Bannister fully appreciate the scale of his success.

“It had become rather like Everest, a challenge for the human spirit,” Bannister said, reflecting on the significance of his own achievement.

His record lasted just 46 days. Australian John Landy ran 3: 57.4 in Finland to set up a much-anticipated showdown between Bannister and Landy at the Empire Games, now called the Commonwealth Games, in Vancouver, British Columbia, on Aug. 9, 1954.

In a race billed The Miracle Mile, Landy led until the final bend, when he made the mistake of looking back for his rival. Bannister burst through the tape in 3:58.8. Landy was second in 3:59. It was the first time two men had run under 4 minutes in the same race.

Bannister was also the first person to win the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year award when he earned the honor in 1954.

Bannister gave up running to pursue a long and distinguished medical career.

“None of my athletics was the greatest achievement,” he said. “My medical work has been my achievement, and my family with 14 grandchildren. Those are real achievements.”


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