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This Day in Track & Field–May 5

by Walt Murphy News and Result Service (WMurphy25@gmail.com), used with permission. 

1954-70th Anniversary—No event has had more of an impact on the sport than Roger Bannister’s historic 3:59.4 mile at the Oxford University track on Iffley Road. Sweden’s Gunder Hägg had held the world record of 4:01.4 since 1945, and the race to become the first man in history to break four minutes for the Mile was joined by three men: Bannister, Australia’s John Landy, and American Wes Santee.

         Bannister enlisted two friends to help set the pace in this latest attempt at making history. After committing an unlikely false start, training partner Chris Brasher, who would win the gold medal in the Steeplechase at the 1956 Olympics, led Bannister through the first 1/4-mile in 57.4. Bannister was right behind in 57.5, and Chris Chataway, who would set his own World Record at 5,000 meters later in the year (13:51.6), was a close third.

         The order stayed the same through the 1/2-mile (1:58.2), then Chataway moved into the lead with 1 1/2 laps to go, leading through the 3/4-mile split in 3:00.5. Bannister went into the lead on the final backstretch, and his race against the clock and a seemingly unbreakable barrier was successful, as he crossed the line in 3:59.4.

         Stadium announcer Norris McWhirter (who, along with his brother, Ross, started the Guinness Book of World Records), who was very aware of the significance of the result,  said with typical British restraint (he had rehearsed this the night before), “Ladies and Gentlemen, here is the result of event number 9, the one mile: First, number 41, R.G. Bannister of the Amateur Athletic Association and formerly of Exeter and Merton Colleges, with a time which is a new meeting and track record, and which, subject to ratification, will be a  new English Native, British National, British All-Comers, European, British Empire, and World’s record. The time is Three… “ and the rest of the time was lost in the crowd’s roar.

(From the World Athletics’ World Record Progression book:


         Bannister passed away on March 3, 2018, at the age of 88.

              Oxford to Mark 70th Anniversary


              Original Program For The Meet
           NY Times Obituaryhttps://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/04/obituaries/roger-bannister-dead.html

           BBC Remembershttp://news.bbc.co.uk/sport1/hi/athletics/3688913.stm

              Newscast Video:  http://archive.org/details/RogerBannister

              A Look Back(2004):


           Another Look back(2014)


              Tom Michalik’s site:  http://faculty.randolphcollege.edu/tmichalik/4min.htm

              Bob Phillips’ Sub-4 Alphabetic Register(through April 14, 2021)


                        SI’s first “Sportsman of the Year”:


              More From SI:




            Bannister Suffering From Parkinson’s (2014)


            ESPN’s movie “Four Minutes”:




1960–At the San José All-Comers meet in Sunnyvale, CA, American Records were set in the 5000 by Max Truex (14:03.6) and in the 10,000 by Buddy Edelen (29:58.9).