Biography of Famous Track and Field Athlete Roger Bannister

About the biography of the famous track and field athlete Roger Bannister, history and information.

Roger Bannister

He called it ". . . rather like Everest. A challenge to the human spirit . . . that seemed to defy all attempts to break it."

By 1954, several men had taken up the challenge of the 4-minute mi. The Swedes' Gunder Hagg and Arne Andersson came within 1.4 and 1.6 seconds of the Everest of distance records. Roger Bannister decided that he would be the 1st to conquer it. Born in 1929 in Harlow, England, Bannister was a medical student and a self-coached runner.

On May 6, 1954, at Oxford University, he knew that conditions were far from ideal--the wind was at near-gale force and would slow him by one second per lap. But time was short--other runners were after the historic mark. It would be Bannister's 1st race in 8 months, but he was at a psychological peak. Should he make a try for it?

The race was scheduled for 6 o'clock. At 5:15, it rained. The wind came in gusts. But as the runners lined up for the start, the wind began to drop. Bannister decided to go for broke.

The plan was for former Oxford teammates Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway to pace Bannister and drive him to the fastest possible lap times. Brasher took the lead and paced Roger to a 57.5 1st lap. Shortly after the 1:58.2 half mile, Chataway went into the lead. At 3/4, the time was 3:00.5 and Bannister knew that somehow he had to run the last lap in 59 seconds.

At the top of the backstretch he passed Chataway and his entire world became the 200 or so yards of land dead ahead. He burst the tape and collapsed, near unconsciousness. Then the announcer read the time: "3 minutes . . ." The rest was lost in the roar of the crowd.

Bannister had run the mile in 3:59.4. Waves of worldwide publicity followed the epic race. Then, on June 21, Australian John Landy ran a 3:57.9 to shatter the new record set by Bannister.

It was a setup. On August 7, the 2 runners met in the Mile of the Century in Vancouver, B.C. BOTH men broke 4 minutes as Bannister won the duel at 3:58.8 to Landy's 3:59.6.

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