Roger Bannister, First Runner To Break 4-Minute Mile, Dies At 88

Roger Bannister breaks the 4 Minute Mile in 3 Minutes 59.4 Seconds

Paced by Chataway and Brasher and powered by an explosive kick, his signature, Bannister ran a mile in under four minutes - 3:59.4, to be exact - becoming the first man ever to do so, breaking through a mystical barrier and creating a seminal moment in sports history.

With no family money, Bannister's education was entirely public-funded at a local elementary school in Harrow, a high school in Bath when his father's office was moved there on the outbreak of World War II, as a scholar at a London private school, University College School, and on scholarships at Oxford University and St. Mary's Hospital to complete his medical qualifications.

His family said on Sunday that he died peacefully in Oxford on March 3 "surrounded by his family who were as loved by him, as he was loved by them". His new world record lasted for just 46 days when his main rival, Australian athlete John Landy, covered the same distance in 3 minutes and 57.4 seconds.

But with close friends Brasher and Chataway, both world-class athletes in their own right, acting as pacemakers, Bannister made history at Iffley Road in 1954.

Roger Bannister was honored at Oxford in 2004 with a mile race to celebrate the 50th anniversary of his mile record. Bannister's assault allowed mankind to enter a world filled with new possibilities.

On a typically cool, wet and blustery English day in May almost 64 years ago, Bannister put on his spikes and ran four laps around a cinder track in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds, for one of the defining sporting achievements of the 20th century.

"I just ran anywhere and everywhere - never because it was an end in itself, but because it was easier for me to run than to walk", he told authors Cordner Nelson and Roberto Quercetani for their book "The Milers".

"He was also representative of the change of Corinthian ideals that athletics still had going into the 50s, so the change into a more professional time when people would set real targets and be more scientific of what they're trying to do and set training methods which he was really into as well".

Roger Bannister, First Runner To Break 4-Minute Mile, Dies At 88
Roger Bannister, First Runner To Break 4-Minute Mile, Dies At 88

"I think that racing in the Olympics and Commonwealths is more important than breaking records", he said in 2014.

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

A giant of athletics, Sir Roger Bannister will be deeply missed by the running community.

Bannister was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease in 2011.

"If it was a four-minute mile, that was a bonus". Appointed to head Britain's Sports Council (1971-74), he initiated a program of building indoor facilities and one of the world's first schemes for testing for anabolic steroids.

The current record has been held by Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj since 1999.

"I was never really concerned about the four minutes", he said.

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