Mile News

The 4 minute Mile: How the Daily Express reported it 60 years ago

September 27, 2014

One of the greatest feats ever achieved by a British athlete almost never took place...

By Dominic Midgley, Daily Express

It was the behavior of a Cross of St. George flag flying on the steeple of St. John's Church near the Iffley Road track in Oxford on Thursday, May 6, 1954 that persuaded the 25-year-old medical student Roger Bannister to change his mind.

At 5:30pm on the appointed day it was blowing horizontal in a stiff wind but when Bannister came out of his dressing room 25 minutes later to see if conditions had improved he could see from a change in its flutter that the wind had dropped a little.

"Right, I'll try it," he said.

A modern-day athlete attempting to break a world record would do so only after weeks of training at altitude fuelled by a diet carefully prepared by a sports scientist, wearing running shoes fitted with lightweight ceramic spikes and on an all-weather synthetic track that married traction and shock absorption.

This being the amateur era, Bannister had spent the previous three weeks sitting his medical exams and on the morning of the attempt only took a train to Oxford after completing his rounds at St Mary's Paddington.

After joining friends for a ham salad lunch he changed into leather running shoes with spikes he sharpened himself on a grindstone, and prepared to make his record-breaking bid on a crunchy, uneven, cinder track.

At 6:00pm precisely he lined with his pacemakers Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher in front of an estimated 3,000 spectators. The Mile race was on!

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Tags: roger bannister (175) , my first sub-4 (59) , legend (90)

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