Olympic Stories

Roger Bannister

Roger Bannister

Roger Bannister was formerly an English professional runner born in Harrow, England on 23rd March 1929. He started out in Vaughan Primary school in London, where talent for running began to emerge. He later went on to study medicine, and attended Exeter College and Oxford, and St Mary’s Hospital Medical School.

Bannister started out his career as a runner when he was at Oxford in 1946, at just 17 years old. His training was gentle to ease him in as he’d not even worn spiked shoes before on the track. A year later he showed his talents when he ran a mile in 4:24.6 after just an hour and a half ever of training.

In 1948, Bannister was picked as a ‘possible’ contender for the Olympics, however he decided not to enter in as he didn’t feel that he was ready for such a big race. He was determined though, especially when he watched the 1948 Olympics. He decided then and there he wanted to be a great miler.

He then planned to train up ready for the next Olympics 4 years later, to be held in Helsinki. Two years after the 48 Olympics, he won various mile races with a best time of 4:11. He also improved on his time for the 880 yard distance to a time of 1:52.7. He went for 6 weeks without any training, and ran at White City where he took 3rd place with a time of 4:14.2. 

Also in 1950, Bannister ran the AAA 880 yard race where he made it in a time of 1:51.1. A few weeks later he ran another 880 yard race and improved his time significantly to 1:50.7. This gave him third place. This wasn’t good enough in his eyes, so he made the decision to fight and train harder, because he wanted to be the best and would settle for nothing less.

In 1951, Bannister won a mile race in 4:09.9, and later bettered his time to 4:08.3. In July of 1951 he ran a mile in just 4:07.8. His determination to better himself was very clear. He set the meet record and beat the champion Nankeville who had previously held onto the title.

After the 1951 season Bannister did not race as he wanted to prepare for the Olympics which were due to take place in Helsinki in 1952. In the trials he ran a time of 1:53.00 in an 880 yard race and a 4:10.6 mile. He ran another 880 yard race at the AAA Championships in a time of 1:51.5 and then just before the start of the Olympics he ran a 0.75 mile in 2:52.9. Bannister made it to the semis of the Olympics for the 1500 metre race, where he came 5th and was not pleased with himself, in spite of making it to the finals. In the finals Bannister finished in 4th place.

After his disappointment in the Olympics, he decided he wanted to be the first man to run a mile in under 4 minutes. He was successful in 1954 when he ran a mile in 3:59.4.

Chair of the London 2012 Organising Committee Sebastian Coe today opened a newly refurbished running track in Oxford named in honour of athletics legend Sir Roger Bannister.

Career Highlights

  • 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games – Gold
  • European Championships – Gold (1954), Bronze (1950)

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