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Roger Bannister

1952 Olympics

Bannister won the British mile championships in 1951 and 1953. He competed in the 1500 meters in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. In the semifinal, he came in fifth, but the next day, in the final, his legs were tired and heavy. Fourth place was the best he could do. Although he was initially disgusted with his performance, he later was proud that he had made it to the Olympics.

After the Olympics, Bannister spent some time deciding whether or not he wanted to continue running. He decided to devote himself to breaking the four-minute barrier for the mile. He trained for half an hour each day; this does not seem like much time, but Bannister spent it doing arduous speed workouts. To help him track his timing and set the pace, he recruited a friend, Chris Chataway. On June 27, 1953, he ran 4:02 with the help of two other friends, Chris Brasher and Don Macmillan, as pacers. Although the time was a British record, the authorities would not allow it to be placed in the record books because Bannister had used pacers. At the time, runners were supposed to run on their own, and pace themselves.

In the winter and spring of 1954, Bannister was so busy with his studies that he did not have time to run much. He would soon start his medical residency, which would leave him with even less free time. He was further frustrated by the knowledge that Australian miler John Landy was aiming to break the four-minute barrier, and that Landy might do it by spring. Bannister decided that he would try to break the record on May 6, in his first race of 1954, at a small meet. And, in order to relax, he went rock-climbing in Scotland.

Bannister knew he would have the best chance at breaking the record if the weather was perfect. When May 6 dawned with rain and win, he went to his job at St. Mary's Hospital Medical School in London, knowing as he made his rounds that he might lose his chance at the meet later that day.

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Famous Sports StarsTrack and FieldRoger Bannister Biography - "i Just Ran Anywhere And Everywhere", 1952 Olympics, "a Scene Of The Wildest Excitement", Chronology - SELECTED WRITINGS BY BANNISTER: