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Roger Bannister was a figure of unique importance in British sport. Gifted by nature with an outstanding talent for middle-distance running, he made his mark internationally by the age of twenty, when running for Oxford University Athletic Club.

In the late 1940s he was a brilliant student of medicine, the subject to which he would devote his entire life. But it was one spring day in Oxford in 1954 which saw his name flash throughout Britain and around much of the world, when he became the first man to run the mile in less than four minutes. Exactly why this athletic feat engulfed him in a surge of fame has been endlessly discussed; but there is no doubt that it was seen as an historic human achievement. Like the first ascent of Everest, it appeared to symbolise human progress, to mark a step-change in mankind's relationship to nature. 

In British consciousness, Bannister's name became a talisman of success and progress, and this was due very largely to his personality, which shone through all that he did. He was intelligent and articulate, but relaxed, modest and charming, and he became beloved of the news media, summing up all that was best in the British character. If ever a man demonstrated that it is not simply what you do in this life that is important, but how you do it, that man was Roger Bannister. 

He retired from competitive athletics in 1954, and was immediately in demand as an expert journalist, and later a sports administrator, in which capacity he worked tirelessly to improve standards and facilities in British sport. He became - or rather he had always been - a philosopher of sport, especially solitary sports like endurance running. 

He wrote extensively on the therapeutic power of sport to aid the growth and development of the individual, and of society as a whole. He tried to teach that sport can have a vital place within a hierarchy of humane values that can enrich our entire lives. He was a humanist, and his career came towards the end of the traditional codes of amateur sport, when serious private devotion to a demanding exercise like running could be a part of a rich and fulfilling life, without the lure of money and stardom. After the 1950s, he became uneasy about the ever-increasing commercialisation of the Olympic sports, the political conflicts, and the looming problem of drugs in sport. 

He became a distinguished neurologist and the Master of Pembroke College, Oxford; throughout his later life he was universally admired and respected. He was a man whose life formed a harmonious pattern, based on dedication, an idealism that was both personal and public, and the valuing of positive achievement. Roger Bannister's memory is still intensely alive as we celebrate the seventieth anniversary of the Four-Minute Mile. ​

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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