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Bannister, Sir Roger

Roger Bannister © Pruneau / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons
Sir Roger Bannister
was born on: 
23 March 1929
Harrow, London, England
and died on: 
3 March 2018
Oxford, England

A gentleman Olympian and a racing gentleman


Roger Bannister is famous for being the first person to run a mile in less than four minutes, as recorded by the timekeepers at the Iffley Road Running Track in Oxford in 1954. He was 24 and his feat overcame the theory that it was both physically and psychologically impossible. Some even argued that to achieve it was to risk death. Although his record would be beaten only a few weeks later when Australian John Landy, his record remains a defining moment in sport.

Bannister was sanguine about his fourth place in the 1,500 metres at the Olympics in Helsinki in 1952 although he always said that, while records were nice, medals were nicer. His sub-four minute mile (3'59.4") was achieved despite the increasing pressures of his medical studies which made training difficult. In those days, the Olympics and many other athletics championships were only open to "amateurs" or "gentlemen competitors." Being a paid or sponsored sportsman was very infra-dig. His hopes to run in the 1956 Olympics came to nothing as his studies took over.

But Bannister's competitive spirit drove him to excel in medicine, with him often saying that he was more proud of his achievements there than on the track. He became a neurologist and undertook research into communication within the central nervous system. He became Chairman of the Sports Council and there created the testing regime, now used across sports, for anabolic steroids.

Editorial Staff