RIP Sir Roger Bannister, 88...

Reply Mon 5 Mar, 2018 12:54 pm
Sir Roger Bannister, First Athlete to Break 4-Minute Mile, Dies at 88

On the morning of May 6, 1954, a Thursday, Roger Bannister, 25, a medical student in London, worked his
usual shift at St. Mary’s Hospital and took an early afternoon train to Oxford. He had lunch with some old
friends, then met a couple of his track teammates, Christopher Chataway and Chris Brasher. As members
of an amateur all-star team, they were preparing to run against Oxford University.

About 1,200 people showed up at Oxford’s unprepossessing Iffley Road track to watch, and though the day
was blustery and damp — inauspicious conditions for a record-setting effort — a record is what they saw.
Paced by Chataway and Brasher and powered by an explosive kick, his signature, Bannister ran a mile in
under four minutes — 3:59.4, to be exact — becoming the first man ever to do so, breaking through a
mystical barrier and creating a seminal moment in sports history.

Bannister’s feat was trumpeted on front pages around the world. He had reached “one of man’s hitherto
unattainable goals,” The New York Times declared. His name, like those of Babe Ruth, Bobby Jones and
Jesse Owens, became synonymous with singular athletic achievement.

Then, astonishingly — at least from the vantage point of the 21st century — Bannister, at the height of
his athletic career, retired from competitive running later that year, to concentrate on medicine.

“Now that I am taking up a hospital appointment,” he said in an address to the English Sportswriters
Association that December, “I shall have to give up international athletics. I shall not have sufficient
time to put up a first-class performance. There would be little satisfaction for me in a second-rate
performance, and it would be wrong to give one when representing my country.”

His record-setting feat would be surpassed many times. Runners in the next decades would be faster,
stronger, better-equipped, better-trained and able to devote much of their time to the pursuit while
benefiting from advances in sports science. But their later success did not dim the significance of
Bannister’s run.


Roger Bannister breaking the four-minute mile on May 6, 1954
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Reply Mon 5 Mar, 2018 01:37 pm
Heard mention of this yesterday. Wasn't quite able to process it at the time. Thanks for bringing it here RP.

Even now, after a few others have surpassed him, it seems near to impossible to believe such speed.
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Reply Mon 5 Mar, 2018 02:10 pm
He was a childhood hero of mine. His memoir is really interesting — such a modest man and such a sense of sportsmanship. I'm glad he lived a long and productive life after his brief period in the spotlight.
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Reply Tue 6 Mar, 2018 01:43 am
@Region Philbis,
This was main news item over here on Sunday. After the privations of war and post war austerity he did a great deal to lift the nation's spirits. He was the last of the amateur athletes, a medical student who went on to become an accomplished neurologist. He always said his latter work was more significant.

Professor Jonathan Weber, acting dean of the Faculty of Medicine at Imperial College London, which is now joined with St Mary’s, said he first met Sir Roger in 1982, when he was a registrar at St Mary’s dealing with the first AIDS cases.

He said: “Many of our early patients had unusual neurological presentations, and Roger was fascinated by this new disease and extra-ordinarily helpful and approachable to a very junior colleague.”

He said that although the sport star left St Mary’s, where he was a consultant neurologist, for Oxford he kept a close association with the hospital.

Sir Roger chaired the St Mary’s Development Trust from 1993-2004, contributing greatly to the refurbishment of the St Mary’s Medical School building following the creation of the Imperial College School of Medicine in 1997.

Professor Weber said: "The culmination of this refurbishment, in 2004, was to invite Sir Roger to open the new Sir Roger Bannister Lecture Theatre, embellished by a portrait, the photograph of his record-breaking mile and, in its own secure cabinet, one of the stop-watches used in this most iconic event.

"As a faculty, we mourn this towering figure of 20th century sport and medicine, and celebrate his lifetime of commitment to St Mary’s.”

Sir Roger's other achievements include becoming the Director of the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London and editor of Autonomic Failure, a textbook on clinical disorders of the autonomic nervous system.

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