Tall and lanky with a long, forceful stride and a blond head that usually bobbed above his competitors’ in a race, Bannister was a gentleman athlete with a philosophical turn of mind. He was a quiet, unassuming champion, a character of a type that has seemingly vanished in the modern era of sports celebrity. Sports Illustrated called him “among the most private of public men, inexhaustibly polite, cheerfully distant, open and complex.”
At the age of 88, Sir Roger's health had clearly been in decline. As a neurologist, he knew well what he faced with Parkinson's Disease, just as he knew well what he faced in attempting to run the first sub-four minute mile.
His fame might have been fleeting, with John Landy breaking his record only a few weeks later, but he would soon show his strength. His seeming failure in not medalling in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, when a nation's hopes were on his shoulders, was followed by three highly significant races, the first sub-four minute mile, the European Championship 1500, and the Miracle Mile against Landy in the Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. Clearly Roger Bannister demonstrated his tenacity and courage behind that pleasant persona that he always conveyed.
In my own history, I recall vividly in 1954 when it was announced on the Today Show that the first four minute mile had been run. I knew nothing about track and field, but it seemed that something of importance had indeed occurred. Then about a year later a documentary film of that race at Iffley Road, Oxford, was shown at our school. (See Below) The fact that the race was filmed from start to finish at a seemingly insignificant meeting says that certain people knew well what was about to happen. I can remember too the close up of Bannister when he took off passing Chattaway, and his image filled the screen in close up for the last three hundred yards. The speed seemed impossible, and I couldn't conceive of how someone could sustain such a physical effort for so long. Although I still had dreams of becoming a basketball player, new information was filed in my brain, and when I failed at basketball, I still had uncharted paths to explore. Though a four minute mile was never in my repetoire, I have Sir Roger Bannister to thank for setting me off in a new direction.
Thank you , Sir Roger
The First Four Minute Mile Clik Here
I expected this. Another link to the past is gone. One that provides me with many memories from watching him run in London in 1952 to meeting him ( and Landy) in Victoria at the 1994 Commonwealth Games. He probably had an influence on every person involved in track from that seminal day in 1954 until today. Regards. Geoff
Great job, George. I remember it the same way. Something significant, something seemingly impossible, something that crossed a magical barrier happened that day but I was in no position to appreciate the full impact. Roy