The Four-Minute Mile, Fiftieth-Anniversary Edition Paperback – 2004
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It's now about 40 years since I first read the book and I was very pleased it was republished in a commemorative edition.
Reading the book again was a joy. The book went very quickly and had most of the excitement of when I first read it. It was not surprising tha the prose and impressions seemed less mature than when I first read them, but that was to be expected as Bannister wrote the book when he was in his twenties.
I was disappointed that the pictures were not the same as the original edition, with perhaps too many pictures of Bannister in later years. The original pictures of the Helsinki Olympics and other competitions were an integral part of the book and it's a shame that they were missing.
Bannisters achievement in breaking the Four Minute Mile was a milestone (pardon the pun), as was the fact that he did it as an amateur and while he was in the middle of his medical studies. In my opinion his book is also a great achievement and is certainly worth the read.
The four-minute mile, the ‘Dream Mile’ to some, a seemingly insurmountable barrier fell on cool and windy day—May 6, 1954. With 3,000 people in attendance and the race broadcast live on BBC Radio, expectations were high. “The four-minute mile had become rather like an Everest,” Bannister writes in The Four-Minute Mile (1955). He was paced by friends and fellow Olympians Chataway and Brasher, whom he credits for their aid in the historic attempt. But just 46 days later on June 21, Bannister’s new record was broken by his rival, the Australian John Landy, setting up an epic showdown on August 7 at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. There, the only two men at the time to have broken the four-minute barrier faced off for the first time in a head-to-head foot race with Bannister inching past Landy in the last lap and solidifying Bannister’s legacy.
“Records are the bare bones of athletics, like numbers to a mathematician,” Bannister writes. “Unless given a human touch they have no life, no appeal. Statisticians may juggle with them, some perhaps finding in their concentration on record figures a vicarious fulfillment of their own ambition. Like odds quoted on horses, times may tell you something of a man’s chance of winning, but they can tell you nothing of his style or his length of stride, nor can a javelin thrower’s distances tell you of his grace of throw. They can give you no conception of the joy there is in watching a champion athlete’s supreme integration of movement, his genius at harnessing efficiently power that is partly inborn and partly ingrained by years of training. It is this human touch which makes the difference between the lasting excitement of men running and the temporary thrill of speedway or motor racing.”
In 1975 Bannister was knighted.