Roger Bannister’s Solitary Pursuit of the Four-Minute Mile


From the New Yorker by Ian Crouch:

It’s impossible to know for sure that no human had run the distance of a mile in less than four minutes before May 6, 1954, when Roger Bannister, a twenty-five-year-old medical student, completed four laps on a cinder track at the University of Oxford in 3:59.40. In the English-speaking world alone, there are a few unverified claims to the feat dating back to the eighteenth century. But Bannister, who died on Saturday, at the age of eighty-eight, was the first man to do it officially, and with the eyes of the world watching. He’d been locked in a global chase for the record with the Australian John Landy and the American Wes Santee. On what he recalled as a “windy and rain-sodden day” in 1954, he was not only racing the clock at the track but, in a way, the shadows of the other two men, training for the same goal thousands of miles away. Wearing leather spikes and an elegant white singlet, and with his fair hair flopping with each of his long strides, Bannister, having been paced around the track by his teammates Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher, hit the line with just six-tenths of a second to spare.

Read the rest of the article at the New Yorker

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