Roger Bannister

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Roger Bannister athletics

Roger Bannister 2009
Roger Bannister 2009

Full name Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister
nation United KingdomUnited Kingdom United Kingdom
birthday March 23, 1929
place of birth HarrowEngland
job neurologist
date of death March 3, 2018
Place of death Oxford , England
discipline 800m , 1500m , mile
Best performance 3: 58.8 min (mile)
Trainer Franz Stampfl
Medal table
European championships 1 × gold 0 × silver 1 × bronze
Commonwealth Games 1 × gold 0 × silver 0 × bronze
EAA logo European championships
gold Bern 1954 1500 m
bronze Brussels 1950 800 m
British Empire and Commonwealth Games
gold Vancouver 1954 Mile run
last change: March 5, 2018

Sir Roger Gilbert Bannister , CH , CBE (born March 23, 1929 in Harrow , Middlesex , United Kingdom - † March 3, 2018 in Oxford , Oxfordshire , United Kingdom) was a British middle-distance runner and neurologist . On May 6, 1954, he became the first person to run the English Mile in less than four minutes.

Athletic career

Roger Bannister had only started running in 1946, but ran the mile in 4: 18.7 and 4: 17.2 minutes as early as 1948 . At the European Athletics Championships in Brussels in 1950 , he won the bronze medal in the 800-meter run . He was one of the favorites for the 1,500-meter run of the 1952 Olympic Games , but it was inconvenient for him that a semi-final was inserted because of the high number of participants. In the final, despite the British record time of 3: 46.0 min, he missed the bronze medal by 6 tenths of a second in fourth place, which went to West German Werner Lueg . The surprise winner was Josy Barthel from Luxembourg in 3: 45.2 minutes ahead of Bob McMillen from the US at the same time .

Then he set himself the goal of being the first athlete to run the English Mile (= 1609 m) in less than four minutes. On May 2, 1953, he improved Sydney Wooderson's British record (4: 04.2 min, 1945) to 4: 03.6 min, and on June 27, he ran 4: 02.0 min. However, this time was not recognized as a British record, as Bannister improperly used the lapped Chris Brasher as a pacemaker.

But two other runners also approached the mile world record of 4: 01.4 minutes that Gunder Hägg set in 1945. The American Wes Santee ran 4: 02.4 min in June and the Australian John Landy at the end of the year 4: 02.0 min. In the first few months of 1954, Landy was three more times below 4:03.

Commemorative plaque on the Iffley Road arena
Bannister (left) overtakes Landy, a bronze statue in Vancouver at the intersection of East Hastings Street and Renfrew Street

Bannister now used the break between the Australian and European seasons for his own record attempt on May 6th at the University of Oxford's athletics facility on Iffley Road. The race was broadcast live on the BBC , with track and field legend Harold Abrahams as commentator. Since the windy weather was by no means ideal for a record attempt, Bannister initially toyed with the idea of ​​postponing the record attempt, but decided to start when the gusts of wind calmed down shortly before the start at 6:00 p.m. Initially, Chris Brasher acted as pacemaker for the first two laps, which were covered in 1: 58.2 minutes, then Chris Chataway . In the last half lap, Bannister was on his own. Using all his strength, he fought his way to the finish line and fell exhausted into the arms of his friend Nick Stacey . Stadium announcer Norris McWhirter had the honor of announcing the world record: When he began to read the time, the word “three” caused such a jubilation that the rest of it went down.

Bannister's world record of 3: 59.4 minutes lasted only a few weeks. On June 21, Landy undercut the mark with 3: 57.9 min (rounded up to 3: 58.0 min). On August 7th, both athletes met at the mile run of the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver . Only Bannister, who started for England , was able to follow the Australian, who had already taken the lead in the first lap. The race reached its dramatic climax when Landy looked back over his left shoulder on the last corner and Bannister passed him on the right at the same time. Bannister won in 3: 58.8 minutes, and Landy was second in 3: 59.6 minutes. For the first time in a one mile race, two runners stayed under four minutes.

Three weeks later, Bannister won the European Athletics Championships in Bern in the “metric mile”, the 1500 meters, in 3: 43.8 minutes. Although he by the magazine Sports Illustrated for Sportsman of the Year was chosen, he finished after this season his performance sports career and focused from now on his medical training.

His training was a mixture of the best methods known at the time. It was individualized and anticipated a number of elements that were later used successfully by Arthur Lydiard .

Professional career

Even during his career as a neurologist, he stayed with the sport in many functions. From 1971 to 1974 he was Chairman of the Sport Council of Great Britain and from 1976 to 1983 President of the World Council on Sport Science and Physical Education (ICSSPE). In 1955 he was awarded the CBE and in 1975 he was ennobled by Queen Elizabeth II . He was director of the National Clinic for Nervous Diseases in London and editor of scientific journals in the field of neurology. Bannister was 1985-1993 Master of Pembroke College of Oxford University .

He kept running to keep himself fit until he broke his ankle in a car accident in 1975. In the same year he was knighted and given the title "Sir". In a 2014 BBC interview, he revealed that he had Parkinson's disease.

Personal best

Note on the 1500 meter best time:
It was set in the same race as his fastest mileage. As was often the case at the time, an additional time measurement was installed at the 1500 m mark.


  • Roger Bannister: The First Four Minutes. Sutton Pub., Gloucestershire 2004, ISBN 0-7509-3883-8 .
  • Neal Bascomb: The Perfect Mile. Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It. Collins Willow, London 2005, ISBN 0-00-717373-3 .
  • Arnd Krüger : The classification of Roger Bannister's performance in the history of training for medium and long distances. In: J. Buschmann, S. Wassong (Hrsg.): Cross-country skiing through the Olympic history. Festschrift for Karl Lennartz. Carl and Liselott Diem - Archive, Cologne 2005, ISBN 3-88338-015-6 , pp. 349–372.
  • Arnd Krüger : Many roads lead to the Olympics. The changes in training systems for medium and long distance runners (1850–1997). In: N. Gissel (Hrsg.): Sporting performance in change. Czwalina, Hamburg 1998, ISBN 3-88020-322-9 , pp. 41-56.

Web links

Commons : Roger Bannister  - Collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. Sir Roger Bannister obituary. In: The Guardian. March 4, 2018, accessed March 4, 2018 .
  2. Video (German), Roger Bannister Run under four minutes. SRF, May 6, 2020, accessed on May 6, 2020 .
  3. BBC News : On This Day: 6 May 1954: Bannister breaks four-minute mile (with video)
  4. Sir Roger Bannister: First person to run a mile in under four minutes dies at 88. In: March 4, 2018, accessed March 4, 2018 .