On this day in 1954, a 25-year-old British medical student was the first man to ever run a mile in less than four minutes. That man was Roger Bannister and his record of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds was recorded at the Iffley Road track in Oxford.
The race goal was clear from the outset and Bannister had two pacemakers to assist him in his record-breaking attempt: Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway. The weather almost put pay to their plans however, as the weather at Iffley Road was not ideal for record-breaking – a 15mph crosswind with gusts of up to 25mph meant that Bannister nearly called off the attempt.
Brasher took the lead as the first pacemaker, with Chataway taking over when Brasher began to feel the strain. With just over 200 yards remaining, Bannister sprinted to the line in record time. Falling into the arms of a friend, the Reverend Nicholas Stacey, Bannister had beaten his main rival to the record – Australian athlete John Landy. Both men had been close but Bannister was the first to break the magic four minutes.
The following month, John Landy beat Bannister’s time but Bannister will always be remembered as the man who broke the four minute barrier first. A Moroccan athlete – Hicham El Guerrouj – holds the current record of 3 minutes 43.13 seconds, set in 1999 in Italy.
Roger Bannister was knighted in 1975.