The Miracle Mile
At the end of that summer, Bannister was due to compete in the mile race on August 7 at the Empire Games in Vancouver, Canada. By then, Landy had already broken Bannister's mile record with a time of 3:58.0, and the contest between the two men to see who would be the world's fastest miler was billed as "The Miracle Mile." Thirty-five thousand spectators attended, and the race was broadcast live throughout North America—a highly unusual event, since the two lead runners were not Americans. It was the first international sporting event to be broadcast live to all of North America. The event was also the lead story in the first issue of Sports Illustrated.
At first Landy was boxed in by other runners, but he took the lead at the second bend. Bannister was fifth. At the first quarter mile, the time was 58.2. Landy remained in the lead for the second and third laps, but Bannister worked his way up from the back. With one lap to go, he was just behind Landy. Landy, knowing that Bannister liked to save a burst of speed for the end of a race, ran has fast as he could. With 90 yards to go, Landy looked over his shoulder to see where Bannister was, and at that moment, Bannister passed him, running to victory with a Commonwealth record time of 3:58.8. Landy's final time was 3:59.6. It was the first time two runners had broken the four-minute barrier in the same race. According to a reporter in the Melbourne, Australia Sunday Herald Sun, Bannister felt pushed and inspired by Landy's ability, and the competition between the two men fueled Bannister's desire to win. Bannister said, "John Landy had shown me what a race could really be at its greatest."
The people of Vancouver were so excited by the race that they commissioned a statue of the two men, depicting the moment when Landy looked over his shoulder and Bannister passed him, and erected it outside Empire Stadium, where the Commonwealth Games were held. In honor of his achievements, Bannister was named the 1954 Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year. He also received the Silver Pears trophy, awarded for outstanding British achievement in any field.
After the Commonwealth Games race, Bannister retired from competition. He graduated from St. Mary's College in Oxford and devoted himself to his medical training, although he did take the time to write a book, The Four Minute Mile, which described his training and the record-breaking race.