Bannister Cracks The Four-Minute Mile - 5/6/1954

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For the average person (me) to run a mile can take about 10-12 minutes of your day. But not for a 25-year-old British medical student name Roger Bannister. For he was the first to crack the track and field’s barrier of the four-minute mile. On May 6, 1954, Bannister was running for the Amateur Athletic Association against Oxford, his alma mater. He finished and won the mile-long race with a time of 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. Now that takes the phrase “quick like a bunny” to an entirely new echelon.

For years prior to this record-breaking date, numerous athletes had tried, and failed, to run a mile in less than four minutes. Thus the effort was labeled as a physical impossibility, and anyone else who tried would be making this effort in futility. The previous world record for one mile was 4 minutes and 1.3 seconds, this was set by Gunder Hagg of Sweden in 1945. Because of the seemingly physical impossibility to beat that record, several runners in the early 1950s completely dedicated their lives to becoming the first to enter the three-minute time zone.

During Roger Bannister’s time at Oxford University, he was the top-mile runner and also at St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School in London. Before preparing for his record-breaking race, Bannister researched the mechanics of running and trained himself using the new scientific methods that he himself developed. The day of the race, weather conditions were not on anyone’s side, it was blustery and raining, but this didn’t stop Bannister. Once he crossed that finish line and the score was announced at “three minutes…” the crowd went absolutely mad and erupted in complete pandemonium and chaos. 

After this race, Barrister went on to win Empire and British championships in his specialty, the mile run. He also snagged the European title in the 1,500 meter-dash event in 1954. By the end of the year he retired from all athletic competitions to pursue his initial passion which was medicine. In 1955, he recalled his exciting running career in his book The Four Minute Mile. He later became a neurologist and in 1975, was knighted by Queen Elizabeth II. Although this was a ginormous feat set in the running world, his record did not last long. This was widely due to the introduction to better timing devices and improvement in training and running techniques. But regardless of the standard, anyone that can run a mile in less than 10 minutes, is my hero.

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