Roger Bannister, First to Break the 4-Minute Mile, Dead at 88

by Abel Hampton March 5, 2018, 1:36
Roger Bannister, First to Break the 4-Minute Mile, Dead at 88

Roger Bannister, the first person to run a mile in under four minutes - a test of speed and endurance that was one of the defining sports achievements of the 20th century - died Saturday in Britain, his family confirmed.

In a statement on Sunday, Bannister's family said the former athlete had passed away peacefully, aged 88.

He practiced athletics in his spare time while studying for a medical degree at Oxford.

The current women's record for the mile, 4:12.56 run by Svetlana Masterkova of Russian Federation, is even longer standing, dating to 1996.

His fourth lap, in 58.9 seconds, gave him a final time of 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds.

"I felt pretty exhausted at the end, but I knew that I would just about make it", he told reporters.

Despite being famed for breaking the four-minute barrier, Bannister said he felt a greater sense of achievement winning gold at the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, beating his great rival Australian John Landy in a race later dubbed the "Miracle Mile".

Six weeks later, on August 7, 1954, Bannister and Landy faced off at the British Empire Games in Vancouver.

Despite his record-breaking pace on the track, Bannister's real passion was medicine and he went on to become leading neurologist and Master of Pembroke College at Oxford University.

In 2015, the two-mile record was smashed by Mo Farah, who ran the distance in eight minutes 3.4 seconds, and this was his first world record. Sports Illustrated named him its first "Sportsman of the Year". Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco set the current world record of 3:43.13 on July 7, 1999. "Since I did it, it has gone down a third of a second a year, on average".

Bannister was born in 1929 in Harrow, England.

Bannister was unhappy and pondered giving up running but set a new goal for himself instead: the sub-four minute mile.

The 1952 Olympics were hard for Bannister as a 1,500m semifinals favoured runners with more endurance than him.

He might not have set the milestone but for the disappointment of finishing without a medal in the 1,500 metres, known as the metric mile, in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. He had this aura of being the man who broke the four-minute mile, a pioneer in so many ways.

He wrote or edited medical texts such as "Brain and Bannister's Clinical Neurology" in 1992.

He is survived by his wife Moyra and their three children Clive, Thurstan and Erin. He was also responsible for introducing testing for anabolic steroids in athletes.

When a 1975 vehicle accident injured his ankle and put a stop to his running, he turned to cycling for exercise.

In a BBC radio documentary in May 2014, Bannister revealed he had been diagnosed with Parkinson's disease three years earlier. "I'd like to see it as a metaphor not only for sport, but for life and seeking challenges".

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