Forbes named the significant feat of breaking the four-minute barrier by Roger Banister as one of the greatest athletic achievements in the history of athletics.
On June 21, 1954, at an international meet in Turku, Finland, John Landy became the second man, after Roger Bannister, to achieve a sub-4-minute mile. He clocked a world record time of 3:57.9, ratified by the IAAF as 3:58.0 owing to the rounding rules then in effect. That record held for more than three years.
Though Roger Banister had already created history on May 6, 1954, some felt the flagrant pacing tainted this achievement. They felt that world records should be created through pure racing as John Landy did. They said that Banister, Brasher, and Chataway had acted within the letters of the amateur rules, but not within the spirit of those rules. The Australians argued that Landy’s 3:58 in Turku was the first legitimate sub-4. But Roger Banister did not pay any heed to his detractors.
Roger Banister was pitted against the Australian in the Fifth British Empire and Commonwealth Games held at the Empire Stadium in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, from July 30 – August 7, 1954.
It was at these games that the “Miracle Mile” took place between Roger Bannister and John Landy on August 7, 1954. This was the first time these two, the only sub-four-minute mile runners at that time appeared in the same race. John Landy was still holding the world record. It was also the first time two runners broke four minutes in the same race.
Landy led for most of the race, building a lead of 10 yards in the third lap. Roger showed the highly acclaimed Landy that he was still the boss by dashing on the final bend of the fourth lap and winning the event in 3:58.8 with Landy 0.8 seconds behind him. Both Bannister and Landy have pointed out that the crucial moment of the race was when Landy looked over his left shoulder to gauge Bannister’s position and Bannister burst past him on the right.
In 1967, inspired by a photograph by Vancouver Sun photographer Charlie Warner, Vancouver sculptor Jack Harman created a larger-than-life bronze sculpture of the two men. In this sculpture, Landy looks over his left shoulder to see his rival’s position and Bannister sprints past him on the right.
This sculpture stood for many years at the entrance to Empire Stadium. After the demolition of the stadium, the sculpture was moved a short distance away to the Hastings and Renfrew entrance of the Pacific National Exhibition (PNE) fairgrounds. John Landy once quipped about this sculpture:
“While Lot’s wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back, I am probably the only one ever turned into bronze for looking back.”
On August 29, 1954 Roger Bannister won the 1500 metres, the so-called metric mile, at the European Championships in Bern in a time of 3:43.8, a championship record.
After the Bern meet, Roger retired from athletics to concentrate on his work as a junior doctor and pursued a career in neurology.
St. Mary’s Hospital (London), Imperial College School of Medicine have named a lecture theatre after Roger Bannister. It houses the stopwatch used to time the race on display, stopped at 3:59.
Later, Roger Banister became the first Chairman of the Sports Council, now known as Sport England. In 1975, Sir Roger Banister was knighted for this service. Under his aegis, there was a rapid increase in central and local government funding of sports centres and other sports facilities.
Now at the age of 85 Roger Banister suffers from Parkinson’s disease. It was one of the diseases he specialised as a neurologist.
By the end of 1957, 16 other runners also broke the four-minute mile barrier.
The International Amateur Athletics Federation, now known as the International Association of Athletics Federations recognized the first world record in the mile for men (athletics) in 1913. Since 1976, the mile is the only non-metric distance recognized by the IAAF for record purposes. Up to June 21, 2009, the IAAF has ratified 32 world records in the event.
|4:14.4||John Paul Jones||USA||May 31, 1913||Allston, Mass.|
|4:12.6||Norman Taber||USA||July 16, 1915||Allston, Mass.|
|4:10.4||Paavo Nurmi||Finland||August 23, 1923||Stockholm|
|4:09.2||Jules Ladoumègue||France||October 4, 1931||Paris|
|4:07.6||Jack Lovelock|| NZ
||July 15, 1933||Princeton, N.J.|
|4:06.8||Glenn Cunningham||USA||June 16, 1934||Princeton, N.J.|
|4:06.4||Sydney Wooderson||UK||August 28, 1937||Motspur Park|
|4:06.2||Gunder Hägg||Sweden||July 1, 1942||Gothenburg|
|4:06.2||Arne Andersson||Sweden||July 10, 1942||Stockholm|
|4:04.6||Gunder Hägg||Sweden||September 4, 1942||Stockholm|
|4:02.6||Arne Andersson||Sweden||July 1, 1943||Gothenburg|
|4:01.6||Arne Andersson||Sweden||July 18, 1944||Malmö|
|4:01.4||Gunder Hägg||Sweden||July 17, 1945||Malmö|
|3:59.4||Roger Bannister||UK||May 6, 1954||Oxford|
|3:58.0||John Landy||Australia||June 21, 1954||Turku|
|3:57.2||Derek Ibbotson||UK||July 19, 1957||London|
|3:54.5||Herb Elliott||Australia||August 6, 1958||Dublin|
|3:54.4||Peter Snell||NZ||January 27, 1962||Wanganui|
|3:54.1||Peter Snell||NZ||November 17, 1964||Auckland|
|3:53.6||Michel Jazy||France||June 9, 1965||Rennes|
|3:51.3||Jim Ryun||USA||July 17, 1966||Berkeley, Cal.|
|3:51.1||Jim Ryun||USA||June 23, 1967||Bakersfield, Cal.|
|3:51.0||Filbert Bayi||Tanzania||May 17, 1975||Kingston|
|3:49.4||John Walker||NZ||August 12, 1975||Gothenburg|
|3:49.0||Sebastian Coe||UK||July 17, 1979||Oslo|
|3:48.8||Steve Ovett||UK||July 1, 1980||Oslo|
|3:48.53||Sebastian Coe||UK||August 19, 1981||Zürich|
|3:48.40||Steve Ovett||UK||August 26, 1981||Koblenz|
|3:47.33||Sebastian Coe||UK||August 28, 1981||Brussels|
|3:46.32||Steve Cram||UK||July 27, 1985||Oslo|
|3:44.39||Noureddine Morceli||Algeria||September 5, 1993||Rieti|
|3:43.13||Hicham El Guerrouj||Morocco||July 7, 1999||Rome|
Hicham El Guerrouj is the current men’s record holder with his time of 3:43.13. And, Svetlana Masterkova has the women’s record of 4:12.56.
← Previous: Part 2 – Breaking the Four-minute Barrier
- Roger Bannister: Part 1 – The Aspiring Four-minute Miler (tvaraj.com)
- Roger Bannister: Part 2 – Breaking the Four-minute Barrier (tvaraj.com)
- Roger Bannister (en.wikipedia.org)
- The four minute mile and its Big Daddy – Roger Bannister. (thebounce.co.za)
- Roger Bannister (fa12phl301.providence.wikispaces.net)
- Bannister’s 3:59.4 (racingpast.ca)
- John Landy (en.wikipedia.org)
- Profile: John Landy (racingpast.ca)
- The Miracle Mile – 1954 – A Moment In Time (miraclemile1954.com)
- Mile run world record progression (en.wikipedia.org)