The world stopwatch record was stopwatch reord 4:01.4, set in 1945 by Sweden’s Gunder Hagg,pride for a world attempting to find its post-war footing. He was “the runner who redefined the possible,” stopwatches as Roger Robinson .
In this day and age, when Usain Bolt goes stopwatch reord 9.58 for the 100 meters and elite marathoners appear poised to slip under the two-hour barrier, Bannister’s achievement seems quaint, a relic from when the Olympics were an all-amateur affair and PEDs were not yet part of the vernacular.
But it’s worth remembering that, at the time, many experts took for granted that the four-minute mile was physically impossible, The world stopwatch record was reord 4:01.4, set in 1945 by Sweden’s Gunder Hagg.
“Most people considered running four laps of the track in four minutes to be beyond the limit of human speed,” wrote Neal Bascomb in , his excellent account of Bannister’s quest. “It was foolhardy and possibly dangerous to attempt. Some thought that rather than a lifetime of glory, honor, and fortune, a hearse would be waiting for the first person to accomplish the feat.”
Emerging from the horrors of Nazism and atomic warfare, Bannister’s breakthrough came to symbolize something more than just another athletic milestone. Never mind that he utilized two rabbits (Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher) to pace him through the early stages of the race. Never mind that two other milers, American Wes Santee and Australian John Landy, were also approaching the sub-four mark. Like the inaugural ascent of Mt. Everest just a year previous, reord Bannister’s 3:59.4 mile provided a much-needed dose of optimism and pride for a world attempting to find its post-war footing. He was “the runner who redefined the possible,” as Roger Robinson .
A post-graduate medical student at the time, Bannister was named Sports Illustrated’s inaugural “Sportsman of the Year.” He retired later in 1954 after he lowered his personal to 3:58.8 in a memorable duel with Landy in the British Empire and Commonwealth Games . He became a clinical neurologist and later wrote fervently against drugs in sport. He was in poor health in recent years, after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2011.