Mile News

The Four-Minute Man, Forever

May 06, 2014

Franz Stampfl, his coach, implored him to run in a meet between Oxford and the Amateur Athletic Association: “He said to me, ‘Although the conditions are not ideal, if you don’t take this opportunity, you might not forgive yourself for the rest of your life.’ He was right.”

By Jesse Will, The New Yorker

On a recent Saturday, Chipping Norton, a small village in the English Cotswalds, hosted a literary festival that included such discussion topics as “Shag, Shoot, or Marry,” which weighed the relative merits of Heathcliff, Lord Rochester, and Mr. Darcy.

Another heroic British character made an appearance: Sir Roger Bannister, a neurologist and the first man to run a Mile in less than 4 minutes. On Tuesday, that achievement turns sixty years old; Bannister is now eighty-five. He had travelled a half hour from his Oxford home to speak about about his new memoir, “Twin Tracks,” at a small Methodist chapel.

Bannister, 85, entered from the rear of the church, leaning on crutches with forearm supports that bunched his black suit sleeves. (Days later, he would reveal to BBC Radio Oxford that he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2011.) Addressing the small crowd, he said it was a great irony that, as a clinical neurologist, he was having difficulty walking. He took his seat near an old pipe organ, then unstrapped a black dress watch and placed the timepiece on a table, its face turned away from his.

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