Sir Roger Bannister: Tributes flood in for man who made impossible possible

Sir Roger Bannister Dies at 88; Was 1st Person to Run a Mile in Under 4 Minutes

Roger Bannister, the United Kingdom athlete who as a medical student six decades ago became the first person to run a mile in less than four minutes, has died, the BBC reported.

In a statement distributed by the UK's Press Association, his family said that Sir Bannister died peacefully, "surrounded by his family who were as loved by him as he was loved by them".

Two years later, on a windy afternoon in Oxford, Bannister clocked the mile in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds over four laps at the Iffley Road track on May 6, 1954 - the equivalent of 15 miles per hour.

In 1999, the record for the fastest mile was lowered to the time of 3 minutes 43.13 seconds, run by by Hicham El Guerrouj (pronounced el gah-roodge) of Morocco.

After Bannister crossed the finish line, the announcer read out the time: "3".

"This is a day of intense sadness both for our nation and for all of us in athletics", said IAAF president Lord Coe, who set the record in the mile in 1981. "I'd like to see it as a metaphor not only for sport, but for life and seeking challenges".

At the 1952 Summer Olympics, he finished fourth in the 1500-meter mile, setting a British record.

Bannister considered that victory even more satisfying than the first 4-minute mile because it came in a competitive race against his greatest rival.

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Bannister also won a European Championship gold medal that year but brought an end to his athletics career before the end of 1954 and went on to become a leading neurologist.

At St. Mary's Hospital Medical School, Bannister turned the focus of his athletic training to the four-minute mile.

After retiring from competition, Bannister pursued a successful career in neurology.

"That to me is a greater source of satisfaction than happening to move my body at a certain speed for a few moments in 1954", he said in a 2012 interview with the New York Times. "There is not a single athlete of my generation who was not inspired by Roger and his achievements on and off the track".

"At the age of 88 he was still an active supporter of the University and we will miss him enormously". The current women's world record holder is Russian athlete Svetlana Masterkova with a time of 4 minutes, 12.56 seconds set on August 14, 1996 in Zurich.

Bannister returned to Oxford in 1985 to become Master of Pembroke College, a position he held until 1993. With his wife, Moyra Jacobsson, a portrait painter and daughter of a Swedish economist, he had four children.

Bannister outlived his 4-minute mile pacemakers: Brasher, who founded the London Marathon, died in 2003 at the age of 74.


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