Roger Bannister dies, the 'lone wolf miler'

Roger Bannister dies, the 'lone wolf miler'
From Al Jazeera - March 4, 2018

Roger Bannister has died, aged 88, but will live forever in the annals of athletics history as the first man to run a mile in under four minutes.

A statement from his family on Sunday said: "Sir Roger Bannister died peacefully in Oxford on 3 March, aged 88, surrounded by his family who were as loved by him, as he was loved by them.

"He banked his treasure in the hearts of his friends."

British Prime Minister Theresa May led the tributes to the former athlete, who later became one of Europes leading neurologists and was made a knight.

"Sir Roger Bannister was a great British sporting icon whose achievements were an inspiration to us all. He will be greatly missed," she said on Twitter.

The record-breaking run was on the Oxford University track during a local athletics meeting, with only a few spectators witnessing the Englishmans destruction of the myth that no human being could run so fast.

Bannister made headlines around the world at the age of 25. His achievement opened the physical and psychological door for many other milers, who have since beaten his time of three minutes 59.4 seconds.

Roger Gilbert Bannister, born in Harrow, a London suburb, on March 23, 1929, was a shy, gangling medical student who preferred to be an oarsman rather than a runner.

In 1946, when he went to Oxford, his great ambition was to row against Cambridge in the annual boat race on the Thames.

But Bannister, who stood 1.8 meters tall and weighed only 68 kilograms, was told he was too light to make a first-rate oarsman.

So he turned to running and his new ambition became to win the 1,500 meters at the Olympic Games in Helsinki in 1952.

Bannister started a five-year build-up, and, in 1947, at the age of 17, ran his first mile race at Oxford, finishing second in a time of just over five minutes. Later that year, he won the mile for Oxford against Cambridge in an athletics meeting.

All at British Athletics are incredibly saddened by the passing of Sir Roger Bannister at the age of 88.

A legend in every sense of the word.

British Athletics (@BritAthletics) March 4, 2018

Lone wolf

He asked for his name to be withdrawn from a list of 1948 Olympic possibles and continued his careful preparations for the 1952 games. But he managed only fourth place in the Helsinki Games 1,500 meters final.

The press criticized him for faulty training methods. Bannister, nicknamed the "lone wolf miler" because he scorned coaches, had worked out his own training schedule to fit in with his studies.

After Helsinki, he became the forgotten man of athletics. But he had set his sights on the four-minute-mile - a challenge which had fascinated athletes and enthusiasts for years.

The world record was gradually being whittled down and a number of athletes were considered capable of crashing the four-minute barrier.

Australias great miler, John Landy, recorded a four minutes 2.1 seconds mile in December 1952, and Bannister cut this to four minutes two seconds in June 1953.

With American Wes Santee trying to lower his US record of four minutes 2.4 seconds, the pressure was on and four-minute-mile fever was mounting. To Bannister, the challenge was not only to break the barrier but to be the first man to do so.

The Oxford University versus Amateur Athletics Association fixture of May 6 was the first competition of the British season of 1954. Bannister, by then a medical student at a London hospital, set that day for his attempt.

He enlisted the aid of his training companions and friends, Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher, top athletes in their own right, as pacemakers.

Setting the record

May 6 was cold, wet and windy - not ideal for a record-breaking attempt. Bannister thought of calling it off, but, after a short rain shower and with a drop in the wind, he said: "Right, Ill try."

After a false start by pacemaker Brasher, the field of six got away. Bannister urged Brasher to go faster and at the halfway mark called on Chataway to take over from the tiring Brasher.

Then, 210 meters from the tape, he pulled out from behind Chataway to immortalize himself as the first sub-four-minute miler.

Seven weeks later, Landy beat Bannisters record, with a mile in three minutes 57.9 seconds, and, in August, Bannister lowered his own time to three minutes 58.8 seconds, beating Landy at the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Canada.

Medical career

Bannister quotes


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