Roger Bannister, a gentleman who almost didn’t run race that defined him

first_img Read more Share on Pinterest “I was also unsure whether I should start my finish immediately or wait another 150 yards and overtake Chataway in the back straight. I decided I would stay a bit longer and then went. There was plenty of adrenaline then, I can assure you!”When his effort was spent he collapsed, almost unconscious. He described feeling like “an exploded flashbulb” but he had the record. And it changed him. As he put it: “I suddenly and gloriously felt free from the burden of athletic ambition I had been carrying for years.” June 1953 Spurred on by SanteeThe American Wes Santee runs 4 min 2.4secs. In response, Bannister runs 4min 2secs in an invitation race at Motspur Park, Surrey Share on Messenger Share on Facebook May 1951 ‘Someone will do it’Bannister runs 4min 8.3sec, the fastest time of his career, in America and discusses his chance of breaking four minutes: “I may not do it but someone will” Reuse this content Timeline How Roger Bannister’s record came about Share on WhatsApp The moment Sir Roger Bannister made history – video Share on Twitter Thank you for your feedback. His record lasted six weeks before the Australian John Landy lowered it by more than a second. But later in 1954, when the pair met at the Empire Games in Vancouver, Bannister emerged triumphant after an epic contest – later called, with complete justification, the Miracle Mile – coming from 15 yards down with a surprise sprint off the last bend.“I felt it was a piece of unfinished business to be able to reproduce the performance of my sub-four-minute mile in a race,” Bannister said. “And I ran the final lap in the last race I had in England beforehand in 53 seconds to persuade Landy that his best chance was to run me off my feet.“However at the half-mile he looked as though he was doing it. He was 15 yards ahead and I thought either he’s going to break a world record in 3min 56sec or he’s going to have to slow. But I managed to catch him by the bell – and then I just managed to choose the right moment to take him by surprise.”It is often said when someone dies that “we will never see their like again” but in Bannister’s case it is almost certainly true.For having won the Empire Games and European Championships in 1954 he then hung up his spikes aged just 25 – at his absolute prime – to focus on medicine.Bannister admitted in 2014: “If I were to start running today I could not combine training with being a medical student.“Most top athletes will train two-three hours a day, whereas I would run half an hour – very hard – five days a week.”But while the last of the gentleman athletes has left us – his legacy will endure for ever. Altogether now: 3:59.4. Even now, 64 years on, 3:59.4 is a number recognisable to every sports fan – and one that instantly unlocks sepia images in the mind’s eye. Of Sir Roger Bannister hurling his body across the line in a desperate bid to make history. Of an expectant crowd around him. And then the deafening roar – and the sweetest release – as the crowd hears he has become the first person to run the mile in under four minutes. Topics Play Video May 1954 Pacemakers help record runBannister, with help from Chris Brasher and Chataway, runs the first four-minute mile, timed at 3 min 59.4secs at Iffley Road, Oxford. John Landy runs 3min 57.9secs only 46 days later Support The Guardian May 1953 Getting closer but no cigarBannister runs 4:3.6 in Oxford, with Chris Chataway pacemaking. A second attempt at the Coronation British Games a fortnight later is timed at 4min 9.4 secscenter_img Share via Email August 1952 Failing to fly at RAF StadiumBannister announces attempt to break mile record at the RAF Stadium in Uxbridge but performs badly, finishing in 4 min 13.8secs ‘We have lost a giant’: athletics world hails Sir Roger Bannister Show July 1952 Dedicated to the causeBannister finishes fourth in the Olympic 1500m and decides to concentrate on breaking the mile record What is also forgotten is Bannister had felt “stale” a month before breaking the record and so had decided on a radical strategy: a three-day break to go hiking. It was, he admitted, “bordering on the lunatic”.But there was a method to the madness. It gave Bannister time away from training and took his mind off the record attempt. His key training session involved 10 repetitions of 400m with short rest periods between each lap – his aim being to do each one in around 60 seconds.Before his break he had struggled. Afterwards he took flight – and suddenly laps of 59 seconds felt easy. But Bannister still had to break a barrier many thought was physiologically impossible. When I spoke to him on the 60th anniversary of his achievement he talked through the race fluently but dispassionately. The anger he felt after a false start by his first pacemaker, Brasher. Then feeling so full of energy on the first lap he was shouting: “Faster!” And then the fear at the end of the 62.4sec third lap when the record appeared to be slipping away.“I heard the lap times as they went by,” he says. “The first was 58. The half-mile 1.58. But the three‑quarters was three minutes and one second so I knew I had to produce a last lap of under 59. Was this helpful? Share on LinkedIn Athletics … we have a small favour to ask. 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We need your support to keep delivering quality journalism that’s open and independent. Every reader contribution, however big or small, is so valuable. Support The Guardian from as little as $1 – and it only takes a minute. Thank you. 0:59 Bannister runs 4min 8.3sec, the fastest time of his career, in America and discusses his chance of breaking four minutes: “I may not do it but someone will” Sir Roger Bannister obituary features Read more Since you’re here… Sir Roger was later to become a prominent neurologist but by then he already knew the power of the mind. As he admitted, he imagined bombs and machine guns would rain down on him if he did not go at absolute full pelt.Yet Bannister’s record for the ages, achieved on 6 May 1954, nearly never took place. For after working in a hospital that morning, he almost decided not to travel to the Iffley Road track in Oxford because of high winds.However a chance meeting with his coach, Franz Stampfl, convinced him otherwise. Stampfl told him: “If you pass it up today you may never forgive yourself for the rest of your life.”Yet it was only 30 minutes before the race was due to start at 6pm that Bannister decided he would compete. “My pacemakers Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway were getting a little impatient,” he told me in 2014.“They were saying: ‘Make up your mind!’ But it was I who had to do it. I was very concerned about the weather but when the wind dropped it proved just possible.”Bannister’s performance was more remarkable still given his lack of training. He would skip his gynaecology lectures, enabling him to run for 45 minutes at lunchtime, and did only 35 miles a week. Hide last_img read more

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