The Man Who Made the Four-Minute-Mile Possible

Roger Bannister shakes hands with Prime Minister Winston Churchill as fellow runners Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway (center) look on. - Central Press

On May 6, 1954, Rober Bannister achived the impossible on the Iffley Road Track in Oxford, England. The 25-year-old medical student ran the first official 4-minute-mile. It likely would not have happened if not for his running partner Chris Chataway.

At the time Chataway, who passed away on Jan. 19 at the age of 82, was primarily a 5,000- meter runner and Bannister had arranged to have him be his pace runner in the even that pitted the Amateur Athletic Association  against Oxford University. Both men had attended Oxford and were good friends. They, along with steeplechaser Chirs Brasher, had been training for the opportunity.

Their goal was to complete the first three fourths of the race in under three minutes. Brasher led the group for the first two laps of the race, then Chataway took over, leading Bannister for a little more than a lap.  Bannister passed his friend with 300 yards to go and crossed the finish line with the record breaking 3:59.4 minute finish.

Chataway would go on to set the world record in the 5,000 meters later that year (13:51.6) and, two years later, in the three-mile (13:27.2 and 13:23.2). He eventually broke the four-minute barrier himself, finishing the mile in 3:59.8. Following his racing career he entered politics and became a member of the British Parlament and cabinet minister.

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