Jules Ladoumegue of France ran the first sub 4 min 10 sec mile in 1923. Improvements were made by Jack Lovelock (New Zealand), Glenn Cunningham (USA), and Sydney Wooderson (GB). During the Second World War, a series of races saw Gundar Haegg and Arne Andersonn of Sweden each break the record 3 times with Haegg claiming the fastest time of 4 min 1.4 secs in 1945.
Answer: Roger Bannister
Roger Bannister was possibly the first top class athlete to adopt a scientific approach to his training methods. Studying to be a Doctor of Medicine (he put in a full day at his training hospital on the day that he broke the record) he had a small room kitted out with a treadmill (not automatic) oxygen mask and heart monitor. He would drive himself into the ground running on the treadmill in order to assess his lung/heart capacity and to assess his ability to run the mile under four minutes. Conditions were not good on the day, very blowy, and Bannister was not hopeful of gaining the required result. Nevertheless, he achieved his aim and the flood gates opened as one after another of his competitors broke the 'magic' barrier.
Answer: R.G. Bannister
On 6th May 1954, the 25 year old Roger Gilbert Bannister (of England) ran the mile in 3:59.4. He was paced by first Chris Brasher and then Chris Chataway. Australian John Landy ran the second sub 4 minute mile in 3.58.0. Wes Santee, from Kansas, although a contender for the first sub-four minute mile, never achieved it. Gunder Hagg (Sweden) had held the mile record previously (4:01.03, set 9 years earlier in July 1945).
Answer: His sprint finish
His sprint finish became famous enough for some commentators to call it the 'Bannister Burst'.
Answer: British Empire and Commonwealth Games
The British Empire Games were renamed the British Empire and Commonwealth for the Vancouver Games in 1954. The name was changed again in 1970 (Edinburgh) to the Commonwealth Games. The race between Bannister and Landy, at that time the only two sub-4 minute milers, lived up to its billing. As Landy glanced over his shoulder leading into the final straight, Bannister seized the moment and won the race in 3.58.8 to Landy's 3.59.6 - the first time that two runners had broken four minutes in the same race.
Because of the windy conditions Bannister had to run harder, to beat the four minute barrier, than he intended. He reckoned that his run was equivalent to a 3:56 mile. At 1500 metres he clocked 3:43 which was world record pace, but fifty yards from the finish he looked, and was, completely used up. Somehow he kept his momentum and went into the history books as 'First to...'
His powerful sprint finish was well suited to the 800m.
Answer: Derek Ibbotson
Derek Ibbotson, who broke John Landy's world record with 3.57.2 in July 1957, was the first man to run exactly 4 minutes when finishing 4th in race won by Herb Elliott at the White City track, London in September 1958.
Answer: Chris Chataway & Chris Brasher
Both Chataway and Brasher were fine athletes in their own right. Chataway was an excellent 5,000 metre/three miler and Brasher went on to win Olympic gold in the 3,000 metre Steeplechase in Melbourne.
Answer: Chris Chataway
Chattaway ran 4:07.2, third was Tom Hulatt (4:16.0), fourth was Scotsman Alan Gordon and sixth was Brasher. American George Dole was the other man in the field.
Even though he was just one place away from winning a medal, this did not sit well with the British public. Their mood was not helped by the fact that the British team as a whole did much worse than had been expected. Bannister, being in a high profile event, copped more flak for the poor overall performance than was warranted.
Answer: Don Bowden
Wes Santee came desperately close with 4.00.5 in 1955. Don Bowden ran 3.58.7 when winninng the PAC-10 Championships for Berkeley on June 1, 1957.
Roger Bannister was born in 1929 and typified the 'gentleman amateur'. He studied medicine at Oxford and was later awarded a Knighthood for his achievments. His inspiration for athletics would seem to have been another great old English miler, Sydney Wooderson.
Answer: Hicham El Guerrouj
El Guerrouj of Morocco (3:43:13), Ngeny of Kenya (3:43.40), Morceli of Algeria (3:44.39) and Cram of England (3:46.32) were the first fastest milers on the time of the 50th anniversary.
Answer: Herb Elliott
Aussie Herb Elliott's career from 1957 to 1961 ended with his being undefeated in thirty-six one mile and nine 1500m races. He broke 4 minutes for the mile 17 times. His Olympic gold medal and world record in the 1500 meters at Rome in 1960 was one of the most impressive performances of all-time. His margin of victory was 20 meters!
Answer: John Landy
At Turku in Finland just 46 days after Bannister's epic achievement, John Landy of Australia smashed Bannister's record by a second and a half: his time was 3:58.0. Landy's run was all the more remarkable by virtue of the fact that he did not use a pacemaker. He took the race on from the front and stayed there. Chris Chataway, one of Bannister's pacemakers and a participant in the race against Landy (he came second) was astonished. Bannister had needed both Chataway and Brasher to get him around in record time, but Landy had run from the front and done all the work himself.
Hicham El Guerrouj broke the record in Rome on 7th July 1999, beating Noah Ngeny who ran 3:43.40, in what was a great race. 3rd was Rui Silva of Portugal in 3:50.91. Guerrouj ran 55.21 for his last lap, the leaders quarter mile splits were 55.07, 1:51.58 and 2:47.91.
Answer: 3 minutes 59.4 seconds
In 1954, there were no electronic scoreboards, so the crowd had to wait for the time to be announced. Nobody heard more than just the word 'three' because the roar of the crowd completely drowned out the rest of the announcement.
Answer: Jim Ryun
On 5th June 1964, Jim Ryun became the first high schooler to break 4 minutes with a 3.59.0 clocking. He went on to break the world mile record twice with 3.51.3 (1966) and 3.51.1 (1967). Most believe that the thin air of Mexico City cost Ryun his chance of the 1968 Olympic Gold in the 1500m. He had to settle for the silver behind Kip Keino of Kenya. His hopes to make amends at the 1972 Munich Olympics were dashed when he fell in a qualifying heat of the 1500 metres. Jim Ryun went on to become an member of the U.S. Senate.
Answer: Wes Santee
Wes Santee was America's top miler of the time and he was widely tipped to be the first to beat four minutes for the mile. His attempt on June 5, 1954 was a superb run but he failed by fractions to beat four minutes. He went through 1500 metres in the time of 3:42.8. a new world record for that distance and it seemed certain that he would crack not only the four minute barrier but the world record as well. However, Santee faltered on the home straight and his time of 4:00.6 was just six-tenths of a second outside four minutes. He had become the third fastest miler of all time but had failed to achieve his goal. Santee would never run as fast again.
Answer: Jim Ryun
Jim Ryun who ran 3:52.8 also held the world record at the time (3:51.1) set in 1967. Foster (Britain) ran 3:55.9 that year. Vasala (Finland) won the Olympic 1500m title that year. Jazy (France) had held the world mile record in 1965, a time that remained a European mile record until 1975.
Answer: He liked to set a blistering pace from the start of the race
Fibert Bayi was a crowd favourite with his lead from gun-to-tape tactics. At the 1974 Commonwealth Games 1500 meter final in Christchurch, New Zealand, the hometown favourite John Walker failed to catch the front running Filbert who won the Gold in a world record of 3.32.2 sec.
Answer: Iffley Road. Oxford
The first sub four minute mile was run at Iffley Road Oxford in May 1954. Iffley Road stadium was a sparse affair with a cinder track and very open to the wind. In those days times were taken by stopwatch and they were some way away from guaging performance times down to the thousandths of a second.
Answer: John Walker
John Walker (New Zealand) broke Filbert Bayi's (Tanzania) record in Goteborg in 1975 with 3:49.4. Steve Ovett (Britain) held the mile record twice, and Steve Scott set the American record at 3:47.69 in 1982 (and it was still standing 22 years later on the 50th anniversary). Walker later improved to 3:49.06 in 1982.
4th place in the 1500m in 1952 was the only time that he would compete in an Olympic Game. At the end of 1954, he retired from running competitively to concentrate on his medical studies. He would continue running as a means of keeping fit until 1975, when he broke an ankle in a car accident.
Answer: A Silver Fern
John Walker of New Zealand was the first man under 3min 50 sec with his 3.49.4 victory in Gothenburg, Sweden in August 1975. He became the third New Zealander after Jack Lovelock and Peter Snell to hold the world mile record. He won the Olympic 1500 meter Gold at Montreal in 1976. However, his performances were soon to be eclipsed by the formidable English duo of Coe and Ovett.
Answer: Empire Games
Landy and Bannister came together on August 7, 1954 at Vancouver, Canada in what was then known as the Empire Games. Billed as 'The Mile of the Century', it was one of the most eagerly awaited contests ever seen in athletics. Such was the excitement generated by this race that the rest of the Games became mere window dressing. Landy was a strong favorite to win by virtue of his recent times and seemingly greater stamina. Observing his training methods one athlete commented "He (Landy) certainly is a machine." Landy predicted that a 4:02 mile would be enough to beat Bannister and that was a time that he could run easily in his present form.
Neurosurgeons treat the brain, the spine, and the spinal cord with both surgery (as their name implies) and also non-invasive techniques. Sir Roger has written a textbook on the subject called, 'Brain and Bannister's Clinical Neurology'.
Noureddine Morceli of Algeria was the first man under 3.45 with 3.44.39 at Rieti, Italy, September 5, 1993. Moreceli had the formidable record of being unbeaten in 45 1500m/mile finals between 1992 and 1996, including the Olympic 1500m title in Atlanta 1996.
Answer: Roger Bannister
Landy, realising that he must have a fast pace, took the lead shortly before the end of the first lap. Once into his rhythm he quickly put distance between himself and the rest of the field. At the half way mark Landy had put 10 yards between himself and Bannister. At this stage Bannister was having trouble. Unlike Landy he needed someone to 'pull' him round the track and the distance between them was becoming too great. Landy opened the lead to 15 yards. Bannister increased his speed in order to regain contact and at the bell he was at Landy's elbow. With 220 yards to go Landy had a lead of three yards and looked set to win. But as they entered the final straight Bannister unleashed his famed final kick and swept past Landy to win by some four yards. The winning time was 3:58.6.
Answer: Diane Leather
The Romanian Edith Treybal had set the record (5:00.3) on 1st November 1953 at Timisoara. This was beaten by Britain Diane Leather on 26th May 1954 at Birmingham (5:00.2), three days later she tried again this time running 4:59.6. Britain Anne Smith was the first offical record holder of the women's mile in 1967. Nina Pletnyova held the woman's 1500m record (4:37.0) at the time of Bannister's feat.
John Walker of New Zealand ran a mile in Sweden in a time of 3:49.4, exactly 10 seconds quicker than the first sub four-minute mile 21 years earlier. Sir Roger Bannister was also Chairman of the Sports Council of Great Britain from 1971-1974, and President of the International Council for Sport and Recreation from 1976-1983.
Answer: Derek Ibbotson
Derek Ibbotson from Yorkshire in England broke Landy's record at White City on July 19, 1957. His time of 3:57.2 heralded another rush of fast times and the record dropped with increasing regularity. John Walker of New Zealand became the first man to break the 3:50 barrier, when he ran 3:49.4 on August 12, 1975.
Answer: Svetlana Masterkova
The Russian Masterkova ran 4:12.56 at Zurich in 1996 (she did 3:56.77 en-route at 1500m). Romanian Paula Ivan is still second on the all time list (4:15.61) got the record in 1989. Both Puica (Romania) and Slaney (USA) have held the record for the distance.