Tag Archives: Chris Chataway.

Roger Bannister: Part 3 – Running the “Miracle Mile” with John Landy


.
Myself  .By T.V. Antony Raj

.

Blue plaque recording the first sub-4-minute mile run by Roger Bannister on 6 May 1954 at Oxford University's Iffley Road Track. (Photograph by Jonathan Bowen)
Blue plaque recording the first sub-4-minute mile run by Roger Bannister on 6 May 1954 at Oxford University’s Iffley Road Track. (Photograph by Jonathan Bowen)

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.

The face of John Landy in second place in the Fifth Empire games (30 July 30 to August 7, 1954) in Vancouver, Canada (Source: thebounce.co.za)
The face of John Landy in second place in the Fifth Empire games (30 July 30 to August 7, 1954) in Vancouver, Canada (Source: thebounce.co.za)

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.

A sculpture of Roger Bannister and John Landy by Jack Harman placed outside of the Empire Stadium to commemorate the Miracle Mile. (Photo: Paul Joseph)
A sculpture of Roger Bannister and John Landy by Jack Harman placed outside of the Empire Stadium to commemorate the Miracle Mile. (Photo: Paul Joseph)

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.

Sir Roger Bannister at the prize presentation of the 2009 Teddy Hall relay race. (© Pruneau / Wikimedia Commons)
Sir Roger Bannister at the prize presentation of the 2009 Teddy Hall relay race. (© Pruneau / Wikimedia Commons)

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.

Time Athlete Nationality Date Venue
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

.

RELATED ARTICLES

.

Advertisements

Roger Bannister: Part 2 – Breaking the Four-minute Barrier


.
Myself  .By T.V. Antony Raj

.

In 1948, Roger Bannister, then a 19-year-old student at Exeter College, was elected president of the Oxford University’s Athletic Club. He then wanted to replace the bumpy, uneven track with a new six-lane 440 yards (400 metres) track during his presidency. Two years later, in 1950, the new track was refurbished.

The year 1954 was Roger’s last year as a runner. He pondered on how to overcome the four-minute mile barrier. The first problem was to decide the venue for the race. He planned to break the four-minute barrier at the Oxford track he had helped build. Since the biggest gamble was the weather, he wished for a suitable day in April or May. The second problem was how to orchestrate the running.

The first problem was to decide the venue for the race. He planned to break the four-minute barrier at the Oxford track he had helped build. Since the biggest gamble was the weather, he wished for a suitable day in April or May. The second problem was how to orchestrate the running.

The second problem was how to orchestrate the running. He trained assiduously with fellow Oxbridge track mates Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway. Franz Stampfl, his Austrian coach, carefully coordinated their training. Roger realized that the two crises were the only pacemakers, he could rely on to help him.

The four of them evolved a strategy to achieve this ultimate athletic challenge. They used a mountaineering analogy. Their plan was for Brasher to take Chataway and Roger to “base camp” at the half-mile so that Chataway could then launch Roger into the attack itself on the last lap. This made both Chris Brasher’s pace judgment and Chataway’s strength and speed over the three-quarter mile equally crucial for success.

Then came the match between the university and the AAA. It was a run of the mill track meet like any other in Oxford. Yet, it was official enough to record history. Roger reckoned this event would meet their needs because there would be only six athletes in the race. Also, the small field would allow the trio to adapt the race to their needs. The Iffley Road cinder track was an ideal one. The only other factor was the weather over which they had no control.

On May 6, 1954, the wind had been blowing near gale force all day. Around 4:30 pm Roger Banister, Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway arrived at the track. At 5:15 pm there was a shower of rain. Afterwards, there was a strong gusty wind. Due to the chilly weather there were less than 1,500 spectators. As the trio warmed up, they knew the eyes of the spectators were on them.

The cinder track was wet.  There was complete silence on the ground as Roger Banister (#41) and his two running mates  Chris Brasher (#44) and Chris Chataway (#42) lined up along with other three runners from Oxford University. At that moment Roger saw the St. George’s flag on a nearby church drooping listlessly and decided that it was the moment to achieve.

The race did not start well as Brasher made a false start. After receiving a warning, when the gun fired a second time Brasher went into the lead as the first pacemaker and Roger slipped in behind him with Chataway in third place.

Roger’s legs seemed to meet no resistance as if propelled by some unknown force. He thought their pace was slow, so Roger shouted: “Faster!” But Brasher kept his head and did not change the pace.

Brasher (#44) leads Bannister (#41) upto the end of second lap . Chataway (#42) is behind (Source: racingpast.ca)
Brasher (#44) leads Bannister (#41) up to the end of the second lap . Chataway (#42) is behind (Source: racingpast.ca)

The first lap was fast enough at 57.5 seconds.

At one-and-a-half laps, Roger was still worried about the pace. Then, he heard his coach Franz Stampfl’s voice shouting “relax” above the noise of the crowd. Unconsciously, Roger obeyed.

Brasher’s halfway pace was perfect at 1:58 and Roger barely noticed the half-mile mark.

Chataway (#42) takes Bannister (#41) into the bell lap at 3:00.7 (Source: racingpast.ca)
Chataway (#42) takes Bannister (#41) into the bell lap at 3:00.7 (Source: racingpast.ca)

Sensing that Brasher was beginning to feel the strain, Bannister signalled Chataway to take over. Chataway took over on the first bend of lap three and led Bannister through the third lap in 3:07. The crowd was roaring. Roger pounced past Chataway, 300 yards from the finish.Chataway to take over. Chataway took over on the first bend of lap three and led Bannister through the third lap in 3:07. The crowd was roaring. Roger pounced past Chataway, 300 yards from the finish.Chataway took over on the first bend of lap three and led Bannister through the third lap in 3:07. The crowd was roaring. Roger pounced past Chataway, 300 yards from the finish.

The moment that changed the world of track running forever - Roger in at 3:59.4 (Source: thebounce.co.za)
The moment that changed the world of track running forever – Roger in at 3:59.4 (Source: thebounce.co.za)

Time seemed to stand still. The only reality was the next 200 yards of track under his feet. When he was just over 200 yards from the finish, Roger took the lead with a final burst of energy. The noise in his ears was that of the faithful Oxford crowd. Their hope and encouragement gave him strength. He had now turned the last bend and there were only 50 yards more. His body must have exhausted its energy, but he still went on running just the same. This was the crucial moment. His legs were strong enough to carry him over the last few yards.

Roger later recalled:

“With five yards to go, the finishing line seemed almost to recede. Those last few seconds seemed an eternity. The faint line of the finishing tape stood ahead as a haven of peace after the struggle. The arms of the world were waiting to receive me only if I reached the tape without slackening my speed. If I faltered now, there would be no arms to hold me and the world would seem a cold, forbidding place. I leapt at the tape like a man taking his last desperate spring to save himself from a chasm that threatens to engulf him.”

Roger Banister sprinted to the line in record time and fell exhausted into the arms of a friend. His vision became black and white. He existed in the most passive physical state without being quite unconscious. He knew he had beaten 4:00 before the time was even announced.

Then the announcement came from Norris McWhirter, delivered with a slow, clear diction:

“Result of Event Eight: One mile. First, R. G. Bannister of Exeter and Merton Colleges, in a time which, subject to ratification, is a new Track Record, British Native Record, British All-Comers Record, European Record, Commonwealth Record and World Record… Three minutes…”

The roar of excitement from the crowd drowned the rest of the announcement. The record time was 3:59.4 and the trio had done it! The three runners from Oxford were just specks on the track that day in 4th, 5th and 6th.

Bursting with joy Roger grabbed Brasher and Chataway and the trio scampered around the track taking a lap of honour.

Thus, Roger Banister broke the elusive four-minute mile, a barrier “like Everest – a challenge to the human spirit”.

.

Next → Part 3 – Running the “miracle Mile” with John Landy

← Previous: Part 1 – The Aspiring Four-minute Miler

.

RELATED ARTICLES

.

Roger Bannister: Part 1 – The Aspiring Four-minute Miler


.
Myself  .By T.V. Antony Raj

.

Until the early 1950s, no one believed it was possible to run a mile in under four minutes. No matter how hard athletes tried, they were not able to break the four-minute barrier. For decades, the record lingered at just a few seconds over four minutes. That was until 1954.

Roger Bannister (Source: odt.co.nz)
Roger Bannister (Source: odt.co.nz)

Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister CBE was born in Harrow, England in 1929. He went to Vaughan Primary school in Harrow and then went to the City of Bath Boys School and University College School, London. He went on to study at medical school at the University of Oxford (Exeter College and Merton College), Oxford. And then Roger went to St. Mary’s Hospital Medical School (now part of Imperial College London).

Roger first enjoyed success as an athlete while at Oxford at the age of seventeen. He won several races in his teenage years. He trained lightly. After three weeks of training, he showed his intrinsic talent when he ran a mile in 4:24. Though selected to compete in the 1948 London Olympics, he declined because he did not feel he was ready to compete at that level.

Sydney Charles Wooderson MBE, dubbed “The Mighty Atom” was at the peak of his career in the 1930s and 1940s. He was one of Britain’s greatest middle-distance runners and known for his amazing sprint finish. He was slightly-built and bespectacled, but had great reserves of strength and overwhelming speed. On August 28, 1937, Wooderson set the world mile record of 4:6.4 at London’s Motspur Park.

Swedish runner Andersson finishes ahead of Wooderson inGotheburg in their second 1945 Mile race (Source: racingpast.ca)
Swedish runner Andersson finishes ahead of Wooderson in Gotheburg in their second 1945 Mile race (Source: racingpast.ca)

The great Swedish runners Arne Andersson and Gunder Hägg surpassed Wooderson’s mile record only after eight years.

The great Swedish runners Arne Andersson and Gunder Hägg surpassed his mile record only after eight years.

In 1945, Wooderson regained his old form and challenged Andersson over the distance in several races. Though Wooderson lost to Andersson, he set a British record of 4:04.2 in Gothenburg on September 9, 1945.

Wooderson’s remarkable comeback inspired Roger Bannister.

John Landy, Runner May 21, 1956 (Photo credit: Mark Kauffman - staff)
John Landy, Runner May 21, 1956 (Photo credit: Mark Kauffman – staff)

John Michael Landy, an Australian Olympic track athlete. He was running 4:08 miles in training. On December 13, 1952, in the first race of an inter-club meet during the 1952-3 season, he made an amazing breakthrough with 4:02.1. He ran the last three laps on his own. It was the third fastest mile ever.

John Landy made two more attempts that season. On January 3, 1953 he clocked 4:02.8 and on January 24, 1953 he clocked 4:04.2.

Each time Landy raced everyone expected him to beat the four-minute barrier. However, he declared that the four-minute mark seemed a ‘physical barrier’. But the 25-year-old Roger Banister, then a full-time medical student at St Mary’s Hospital Medical School thought otherwise. He reasoned if Landy could run the mile in 4:03 then it was only a matter of time until someone could do it in 3:59.

The humiliation after the failure to win the 1,500 metres gold medal at the Helsinki Olympics in 1952, when he had been the favourite, was a huge knock to Roger’s pride. It also shattered the hopes of his family, friends and the British public. Roger felt it necessary to restore the faith of others in him after his defeat. He resolved to be the first 4-minute-miler.

Roger followed a simple physical routine. He would go to the track, during lunchtime. Without any warm-ups, he would kick a few times to loosen his legs. After that, he would run hard for about thirty-five minutes. Then, he would shower and take his lunch and just head back to his studies.

He carried on with his training along with his medical studies. Using his medical knowledge, he trained alone. He purposely avoided the coaches and the managers.

With this simple routine, he reduced his mile time to 4:03.6.

Roger did not set any date to break the four minute mile. He was always conscious of the fact that John Landy of Australia might beat him to it. Landy made no secret of the fact that the four-minute mile was his goal.

There were four essential requirements to achieve his goal: a good track, no wind, a warm weather and even-paced running. For many years, track coaches and physiologists had scientifically plotted the method to break the four-minute barrier. They predicted that it could be achieved in Scandinavia where it was called the “Dream Mile”, in a 68°F weather; on a hard, dry clay track; with no wind; and a large, enthusiastic crowd to provide the psychological boost. According to the pundits, the first quarter would be the slowest and the final quarter the fastest. Yet, on the day Roger broke the four-minute barrier things were the exact opposite.

The year 1954 was Roger’s last year as a runner. He trained assiduously with fellow track mates Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway. He did not set any date to break the four minute mile, but he was conscious of the fact that John Landy of Australia might beat him to it since Landy made no secret of the fact that the four-minute mile was his goal.

For many years, track coaches and physiologists had scientifically plotted the method to break the four-minute barrier. They predicted that it could be achieved in Scandinavia where they called it the “Dream Mile”, in a 68°F weather; on a hard, dry clay track; with no wind; and a large, enthusiastic crowd to provide the psychological boost. According to the pundits, the first quarter would be the slowest and the final quarter the fastest. Yet, on the day Roger broke the four-minute barrier things were the exact opposite.

Next → Part 2 – Breaking the Four-minute Barrier

.

RELATED ARTICLES

.