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Bannister and Landy

About Roger & His Record

The loudspeakers at a blustery Iffley Road Track crackled and the voice of Norris McWhirter resounded across the concourse.


‘Ladies and gentlemen, here is the result of event number nine, the one mile. First, number 41, R.G. Bannister of the Amateur Athletic Association and formerly of Exeter and Merton Colleges, with a time that is a new meeting and track record, and which, subject to ratification, will be a new English Native, British National, British All-Comers, European, British Empire and World Record. The time is three…’


As the crowd erupted in applause, the rest of McWhirter’s announcement was drowned out. For something unique had just occurred: twenty-five year-old Roger Bannister had become the first person to run a mile in under four minutes – 3.59.4 to be precise. 

The four minute mile had obsessed followers of athletics for decades. Talented individuals from across the world – Jack Lovelock and Paavo Nurmi, Arne Arnesson and Gunder Haegg, to name but a few – had poured their hearts and souls into inching closer to the coveted four minute mark. By 1954, the mile world record had remained untouched at 4 minutes and 1.4 seconds for a staggering 9 years. Commentators speculated over whether such a speed was physiologically or psychologically possible. So when Bannister finally settled the debate at Iffley Road on 6th May 1954, Oxford became for a moment the centre of the sporting universe. Bannister featured on the front page of every major British newspaper as well as 1,600 papers in the United States alone. The achievement of this Oxford-educated amateur captured the world’s imagination. 

Roger Bannister, a determined Englishman, had once been a medical student at Oxford and, in 1948 as President of Oxford University Athletic Club, had played a pivotal role in the construction of a new track at Iffley Road. He made a personal vow that this track would bear witness to his most exceptional performances. In 1952, to the dismay of his homeland, he finished fourth in the 1500 meters final at the Olympic Games held in Helsinki. However, this disappointment fuelled his ambition to shatter the elusive four-minute barrier for a mile. 

On the historic day of May 6th, 1954, at the age of 25, Roger Bannister accomplished his audacious goal, forever altering humanity's perception of what was physically attainable. Remarkably, he achieved this feat at the Iffley Road Track while maintaining his amateur status, training solely during his lunch breaks as he pursued a medical career.

In his later years, Roger Bannister assumed the role of chairman of Sport England, advocating for the concept of "Sport for All" – the idea that sports should be accessible and enjoyable for everyone, rather than reserved solely for elite athletes. Alongside his illustrious career in the field of Neurology, he also served as the Master (head) of Pembroke College, Oxford.

Bannister at University

Bannister as a Student

The what

In honour of Rodger Bannister's accomplishment 70 years ago, we're organising the Bannister Mile - a thrilling one-mile race where participants can strive to achieve the coveted sub-four-minute mile.

The where

Location: Lorum Ipsum Street, Oxford, OX1

The when

Date: 1st February 2024

Registration: 8am

Race: 9am

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