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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Roger Bannister: First man to run a mile in under four minutes dies

The athlete later became one of Europe's leading neurologists and was made a knight

British athlete Roger Bannister becomes the first man to run a mile in under four minutes at Iffly Field in Oxford, England on May 6, 1954. AP
British athlete Roger Bannister becomes the first man to run a mile in under four minutes at Iffly Field in Oxford, England on May 6, 1954. AP

Roger Bannister, who has died aged 88, will live forever in the annals of athletics history as the first man to run a mile in under four minutes.

His family said on Sunday that he died peacefully in Oxford on March 3 "surrounded by his family who were as loved by him, as he was loved by them".

"He banked his treasure in the hearts of his friends," the family added.

British Prime Minister Theresa May led tributes to the former athlete, who later became one of Europe's leading neurologists and was made a knight.

"Sir Roger Bannister was a great British sporting icon whose achievements were an inspiration to us all. He will be greatly missed," she said on Twitter.

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Read more:

Roger Bannister’s record-breaking spikes sold at auction for more than $400,000

The day Roger Bannister’s self-belief won him a mile under four minutes

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Bannister made his record-breaking run on the Oxford University track during a local athletics meeting when he was 25 years old. Only a few spectators were there to witness the Englishman's destruction of the myth that no human being could run so fast but the run subsequently made headlines around the world.

His achievement opened the physical and psychological door for many other milers who have since beaten his time of 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.

Roger Gilbert Bannister, born in the London suburb of Harrow on March 23, 1929, was a shy, gangling medical student who preferred to be an oarsman rather than a runner.

In 1946, when he went to Oxford, his great ambition was to row against Cambridge in the annual boat race on the Thames.

But Bannister, who stood at 1.8 metres tall and weighed only 68 kilograms, was told he was too light to make a first-rate oarsman.

So he turned to running.

May 6, 1954, the day on which he ran his first mile in under four minutes, was cold, wet and windy – not ideal for a record-breaking attempt. Bannister thought of calling it off but after a short rain shower and with a drop in the wind, he said: "Right, I'll try."

And the rest is history.