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Roger Bannister

"a Scene Of The Wildest Excitement"

After his work, Bannister took the train from London to Oxford. On the train he met Franz Stampfl, who coached Bannister's teammate Chris Brasher. Stampfl told Bannister that despite the weather, he should give it his best try, saying, according to Deford, "If you don't take this opportunity, you may never forgive yourself." Bannister remained undecided through lunch and teatime later that day. As the race began at the Iffley Road track in Oxford, only about 1,100 spectators had showed up. Among them were Bannister's parents, who had been told by a friend that something special might happen that day.

As Bannister warmed up on the track, he kept looking toward the church of St. John the Evangelist, where a flag flying straight out above the steeple showed the strength of the wind. A few minutes before the race started at 6:10 p.m., the flag began to drop, and Bannister told himself that if everyone in characteristically rainy and windy England waited for good weather before doing anything, nothing would ever be done. He told Chataway and Brasher he was going to make the attempt on the record.


1929 Born in Harrow, Middlesex, England
1945 Decides to become a runner
1946 Begins medical studies at St. Mary's College, Oxford University
1947 Shows talent while running as a pacer in a mile race at Oxford
1948 Is inspired by the Olympics, held in London, to try and compete in 1952 Olympics
1952 Competes in Helsinki Olympics
1954 Becomes first person to run a mile in less than 4 minutes
1954 Graduates from St. Mary's College, continues medical studies
1955 Publishes The Four-Minute Mile
1963 Earns medical degree from Oxford University, becomes a neurologist
1975 Is involved in an automobile crash; knighted by Queen Elizabeth II
1975-present Continues working in neurology, writing scientific papers, and conducting research

The gun sounded, and the runners took off. Brasher was in the lead until the end of the third lap, when Chataway took over the pace. On the backstretch Bannister passed him, moving ahead of all the other runners, into a new pace, never run before. On the stretch, a gust of wind pushed him sideways, stealing valuable fractions of seconds, but Bannister kept going, hitting the tape at 3:59.4. According to Nelson and Quercetani, he later said of those last few seconds of the race, "I felt that the moment of a lifetime had come. There was no pain, only a great utility of movement and aim. The world seemed to stand still or did not exist, the only reality was the next two hundred yards of track under my feet." As he crossed over the finish line, he was so spent that he collapsed, almost passing out.

The crowd went wild, rushing onto the track and surrounding Bannister. A report in the London Times on the following day noted, "There was a scene of the wildest excitement—and what miserable spectators they would have been if they had not waved their programmes, shouted, even jumped in the air a little."

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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: