After two years of intense training, Roger Bannister became the first person to beat the four-minute mile and the most famous runner in the world. It was an amazing achievement, but not his destiny; he was already working on his next dream.
Imagine setting a world record and becoming one of the most famous people in sports history. Now imagine thinking “That’s not enough!” and setting out to become a neurologist.
That’s the life story of Roger Bannister, the English runner who was the first person in the world to run a mile in less than four minutes.
Roger didn’t set out to be a world-class runner. He never even tried long-distance running until he was seventeen, but he immediately showed talent and Britain asked him to be on their Olympic team in 1948. But Bannister wanted more time to practice, and waited four years until the 1952 Olympics.
The result? Heartbreak! He finished in fourth place, just out of the medals. He seriously thought about quitting running forever.
Instead, he took a deep breath and decided to go after a different dream – the four-minute mile. This was a goal that top runners around the world had been edging closer and closer to, but Roger Bannister determined to beat them all.
After two years of intense training, he was ready. During a track meet in 1954, Roger ran like no other human being ever had. At the finish line, his time was half a second under four minutes. The crowd went wild and the news flashed around the world!
Roger Bannister had another moment of global glory a few months later, when he raced against and beat the Australian runner who had passed his world record. It was called the Miracle Mile, and it confirmed Bannister as the most famous runner in the world.
But fame was not enough for Roger Bannister. He wanted to make a difference through his work as a doctor. Roger became a neurologist and a top medical expert on the brain, introducing new procedures and conducting research that was published in medical journals around the world. He still loved sport, and successfully worked for sports funding across Britain and for the first steroid testing of athletes.
How did Roger Bannister accomplish so much? Here’s his philosophy, in his own words – “Every morning in Africa, a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must outrun the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or a gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running!”