Tributes for Bannister, record-breaker who went the extra mile

Roger Bannister, first sub four-minute miler, dies aged 88

A Christie's employee holds running shoes worn by Sir Roger Bannister.

"The world seemed to stand still, or did not exist", he wrote in his book, "The First Four Minutes".

"It was amateurism's last hurrah", Christopher Chataway, one of Bannister's training partners and pacesetters, told The Washington Post in 2004.

Swedish runner Gundar Haegg's mile time of 4:01.4 had stood for nine years, but in 1954 Bannister, Australian rival John Landy and others were threatening to break it. "It all came down to whoever had the first chance in tolerable weather", Bannister recalled to the New Yorker decades later.

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And he also came second to Bannister in what was billed as "The Mile of the Century" at the Empire Games in 1954. To Bannister, the challenge was not only to break the barrier but to be the first man to do so. He became director of National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London and edited a textbook on nervous system disorders.

► In August 1954, Bannister captured the European 1500 metres crown. He ended competitive racing at age 25, having never earned prize money, to focus on his career as a neurologist. "I thought it was a few months away or even a year away". "All that training was done on a limited diet", Bannister once said.

With Chris Brasher setting the pace on the cinder track, they ran a first lap in 57.5 seconds, then 60.7 - 1:58.2 for the half mile.

Roger Gilbert Bannister was born in Harrow, now a borough of London, on March 23, 1929, and he spent part of his childhood in Bath.

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His childhood and teen years found him sprinting up the steps of Beechen Cliff on his way to school in Bath, hiking 10 miles a day as a summertime tour guide, and biking the 100-mile trip from Bath to London in a day to visit a friend as a 13-year-old.

"I meant to run him into the ground", he said. Later that year he won the mile for Oxford against Cambridge in an athletics meeting.

He might not have set the milestone but for the disappointment of finishing without a medal in the 1,500 meters, known as the metric mile, in the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki. He was favored to win the gold for Britain in the 1,500.

Running the imperial four laps in sub four minutes was the athletic equivalent of reaching the south pole, or the moon. Soon after, he made a decision to retire at 25 years old with no Olympic medal (a blessing in disguise to the world, as he probably would've retired from athletics had he won gold) to focus on medicine. "It is very hard to break records during Olympic competition, but winning races was better than holding world records".

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Chataway, a world-class 5,000m runner, took up the pace before Bannister strode out on the final lap, collapsing across the line exhausted in a time of 3m:59.4s. They were poised for the record attempt. One year after the coronation of a young Queen Elizabeth II and after man conquered Everest, Roger Bannister ran the first subfour- minute mile with the help of his friends Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher. But, shortly before 6 p.m., the wind died down.

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