According to legend, experts said for years that the human body was simply not capable of a 4-minute mile.

On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister, then a 25-year-old medical student, worked his morning shift at a London hospital before taking an afternoon train to Oxford in preparation for a one-mile race against Oxford University.

Bannister wasn’t exactly a big prospect in athletics, despite his passion for running. Commitment to his studies meant his training was limited to just three half-hour sessions a week. Scant preparation for someone trying to achieve the “Everest of athletics”.

Without the hype we see at major athletics meetings these days, Bannister arrived at the wet and miserable Iffley Road Track in Oxford to find just 1,200 spectators gathered to watch the race. There were six runners competing – three from Oxford University and Bannister along with two friends, Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher, representing the English Amateur Athletic Association.

The race started at 6.00 pm and as planned Brasher set the pace over the first two laps before handing over to Chataway. The line was crossed at the end of lap three in a time of three minutes and two seconds, meaning the final lap had to be covered in less than fifty-eight seconds to “achieve the impossible”. Knowing what he had to do, Bannister lengthened his stride, passed Chataway at speed, and thundered majestically round the final bend. With his head back and arms splaying out, he broke the tape.

It was clear to the waiting crowd that the time was quick, but had he done it?

There were three official timekeepers for the event including Norris McWhirter, a personal friend of Bannister, who went on to found the Guinness Book of World Records. He used his “Nero Lumania” stopwatch to record the race time from the commentary box and silence fell around the stadium as the crowd waited for his announcement. He got as far as “three minutes….” before cheers erupted and his voice was completely drowned out.

Although hundreds of people have since achieved the same goal the history books will always record the fact that on 6th May 1954, Roger Bannister, a medical student, set a new World Record time of three minutes fifty-nine and four-tenths of a second, to become the first person in history to break the mythical barrier of the four-minute mile.

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