Commerative Plaque for "Miracle Mile"

Roger Bannister: The Miracle Mile

On the 6th May, 1954, Roger Bannister became the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes, one of sport’s most historic achievements.

A 25-year-old British medical student, Bannister travelled directly from completing his morning house rounds at Paddington Hospital to catch a train to Oxford, where he was due to race for the Amateur Athletic Association against his former Oxford University team.

The race was carefully planned by Bannister and his coach. During the race, at Iffley Road, Bannister was aided by two pacemakers, Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway. Brasher took the lead as the first pacemaker, then Bannister slotted in behind him, with Chataway staying in third place. When Brasher began to feel the strain, Bannister signalled for Chataway to take over.

It wasn’t until he was just over 200 yards from the finish that Bannister took the lead, and sprinted to the line in record time. In weather conditions that were so bad the race was nearly called off (15mph crosswinds with gusts of up to 25mph plagued the area that day), he completed the mile run in 3mins and 59.4 seconds, in front of about 3,000 spectators. All four were run in approximately one minute.

The UK took Bannister to their hearts, celebrating his amazing achievement. The Daily Telegraph described it as “sport’s greatest goal”, something “as elusive and seemingly unattainable as Everest”. Yet only a few weeks later, Bannister’s main rival for the record, Australian John Landy, bettered the Iffley Road record with a time of 3 minutes 57.9 seconds. However, it is Bannister who will always be remembered as the man who first ran the “miracle mile”.

At the end of 1954, Bannister retired from running to concentrate on his medical studies full-time. He later became a consultant neurologist. He was knighted for his achievement in 1975.

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Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.

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