Sir Roger Bannister, the first person to run a mile in under four minutes, has died at the age of 88.
Sir Roger, who was knighted in 1975, had been suffering from Parkinson’s disease since 2011.
The challenge of running one mile in four minutes was considered impossible by many experts. So when Bannister achieved it, at Iffley Road track in Oxford, it was described as the Everest of athletics.
His record stood for just 46 days.
Arch-rival, John Landy ran 3:57.4 in Finland to set up a much-anticipated clash between the two men in the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver.
In a race billed as “The Miracle Mile”, Landy led until the final bend when he made the mistake of looking back for his rival. Bannister burst through to breast the tape in 3:58.8.
In an age of the amateur athletics, Bannister saw his running as something to be done in his spare time. He wrote that the ideal athlete was one who enjoyed a few drinks and even the odd cigarette.
I always knew I would stop being an athlete
After leaving University College School in London, he went to Oxford to study medicine before going on to St Mary’s Medical College (now part of Imperial College).
For Bannister, running was always a hobby and never a professional pursuit.
“As soon as I ceased to be a student,” he said, “I always knew I would stop being an athlete.”
Within 10 years of qualifying as a doctor, he was established in his profession as a consultant physician, going on to become a leading neurologist, and later the Master of Pembroke College, Oxford.
But he always stayed involved in the sport he loved.
Bannister was a member of the United Hospitals Athletics Club committee and donated the United Hospitals Cross-Country trophy (the Bannister cup).
He also became the first chairman of the Sports Council in 1971 and, during his tenure, he led a crusade on drug-testing in athletics. He was knighted in 1975 and made a Companion of Honour in the 2017 New Year’s Honours.