A Run to Remember

I’ve started running again this week and amidst the soreness (I hadn’t laced up my running shoes in about a year) I am reminded that it was 50 years ago this month that a 25-year-old medical student named Roger Bannister became the first person to run a mile in under 4 minutes.

My personal record for the mile in high school was 4:59, and that was all I could do. I ran the 800 meter race (roughly a half mile) in 2:06—still a good bit slower than Bannister’s pace. I’ve run plenty of quarter-miles at the pace Bannister ran, but much more than that and I’m spent.

What is truly amazing is that Bannister was an amateur when he accomplished the feat. Retiring not long after the breaking the record, Bannister provides a good model for many would-be career athletes:

Bannister, who went on to have a distinguished career as a neurologist, does not hesitate when asked whether running or medicine has been more important.

“A medical career,” he said. “Once you have been through a sporting fame phase you realise then how insubstantial it is. It’s very fleeting.”

I like this attitude—one that was shared by fellow British runner Eric Liddel, of Chariots of Fire fame. It is much different than what is often expressed by athletes who will do anything to remain at the top levels of their sport.

You can watch video of Bannister’s record breaking run here (broadband recommended), and Runner’s World has a good breakdown of articles as well.