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Sir Roger Bannister, CBE was born in Harrow, England on March 22, 1929. He’s the inspiration for our Bannister Derby, and serves as a Wolf & Shepherd brand role model from afar.
The tall, lanky Bannister discovered his talent for running at a young age, tapping into it throughout childhood as he ascended England’s youth ranks. A driven lad of middle-class background, by his teen years he realized the best opportunity for him to attend a top college and follow his true passion - medicine - was to somehow secure an athletic scholarship. What had been his hobby immediately turned into a vessel to accomplish his much bigger goals.
Despite his diverse interests, his success on the track continued to build over the coming years, eventually securing him a spot to represent England in the 1952 Helsinki Olympics. After a “disappointing” fourth place finish, Bannister turned his attention towards a new, seemingly impossible goal: Running a sub-four minute mile.
On the cold, wet, windy day of May 6, 1954 Bannister, then a medical student at Oxford University, headed to his school’s Iffley Road Track to attempt the feat he’d been training for. A crowd of 3,000 gathered to watch, however with such unpleasant weather the race was nearly called off. After some collective wishes and a little patience it eventually it calmed down, allowing him his opportunity. At the start of the race Bannister was led out by two pacemakers - friends Chris Chataway and Chris Basher - who stayed ahead of him for the first three laps before Bannister made his move. Pushing his body to its absolute limit, on the final lap he sprung around and accelerated forward to the finish line, nearly fainting as he crossed.
“Ladies and gentlemen, here is the result of event nine, the one mile: first, number forty one, R. G. Bannister, Amateur Athletic Association and formerly of Exeter and Merton Colleges, Oxford, with a time which is a new meeting and track record, and which—subject to ratification—will be a new English Native, British National, All-Comers, European, British Empire and World Record. The time was three…”
Before the official time was fully announced the crowd erupted in cheers. He’d done it - he’d passed through a mythological barrier and set a new world record.
Bannister’s feat was international front page news and placed him among the sporting titans of his generation. And as incredible as it was, his sub-four minute mile doesn’t top his personal list of greatest accomplishments. Instead he was much more proud of his medical career, greatly contributing to the neurological field over the many decades that followed. Additionally, as you may have noticed, he was knighted in 1975, further enhancing his legend. “Impressive” is about as big of an understatement as there is.
Sir Roger Bannister is exactly the type of person we want to model our products after: Driven, talented, well-rounded individuals who tackle adversity with grace and commitment. Being the best in the world is a great thing, however being the best version of yourself is something even greater.
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