Twenty years ago today, on 6 May, 1954, a 25-year-old Oxford graduate named Roger Bannister ran a mile in less than four minutes - and realised a dream that athletes throughout the world had been chasing for seventy years.
(LONDON, 1974) GV Dr. Roger Bannister down street.
CU Bannister at work.
(OXFORD, 1954) GV Start of record race.
LV PAN Bannister takes lead, crowd cheer and Bannister finishes. (3 shots)
CU Bannister exhausted after race.
(LONDON, 1937) CU Pistol and Wooderson race begins.
GV Race in progress Wooderson finishes.
GV Wooderson receives cup ZOOM CU Wooderson.
(DUBLIN 1958) GV Crowd.
GV Elliott race starts.
GV Elliott finishes crowd and Elliott with other runners. (3 shots?
(CALIFORNIA 1967) SCU Jim Ryun.
SCU INT Ryun at studies. (2 shots)
SV Athletes in training. (3 shots)
TRACKING SHOT Ryun road running.
GV PAN Ryun finishes record mile.
(NEW ZEALAND, 1974) SCU Bayi leads in race PAN runners.
SV PAN Bayi leading others.
TOP VIEW PAN Bayi wins rice.
Initials VS.17.30 VS 17.45
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Background: Twenty years ago today, on 6 May, 1954, a 25-year-old Oxford graduate named Roger Bannister ran a mile in less than four minutes - and realised a dream that athletes throughout the world had been chasing for seventy years.
Bannister's record run of 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds wrote his name in the record books for all time, and although no fewer than 186 other athletes have run the mile in less than four minutes since then, his is the name always associated with the breakthrough. He was the first.
As long ago as 1885, when an Englishman named Walter George clocked 4 minutes 12 secs over one mile, men set their minds on the four-minute target. Even so, George's time was never bettered until 1923, when the legendary Paavo Nurmi of Finland brought the record down to 4 minutes 10.4 secs.
In 1937, another Englishman, Sydney Wooderson, cut the time to 4 minutes 6.4 secs and his record stood for the next five years. World War Two brought athletics to a standstill except in neutral Sweden and it was left to two Swedes, Hagg and Anderson to fight it out between them. Hagg it was who held the record in 1945, at 4 minutes 1.4 secs.
In the next nine years, no-one was able to better his time and the four-minute mile remained tantalisingly beyond reach until one overcast May evening at a sports ground in Oxford. That was Bannister's day.
Paced by two other British runners, Ohris Chataway and Chris Brasher, Bannister ran himself to the point of collapse - and into sporting history.
He never repeated his feat, but having made the breakthrough others followed rapidly. In the same year, Australian John Landy had run a mile in 3 minutes 58 sees, but it was until 1958 that the next big advance was made. That year, Herb Elliott, also of Australia, shattered the record and brought the time down to 3 minutes, 54.5 secs.
The current record holder is an American, Jim Ryun. His fastest time is 3 minutes 51.1 secs, which has not been bettered since he ran it in 1967.
It took nearly seventy years for athletes to reduce the mile record by the mere twelve seconds or so necessary to break through the four-minute barrier. And in the last twenty years, despite the enormous advances in training techniques, Bannister's record time has been lowered by only 8.3 secs.
Today, there are new targets. 3 minutes 50 secs. Will inevitably be recorded soon and there is even talk of 3 minutes, 40 secs. The curiosity is that every mile record holder to date has been white, but among experts there is a certainty that soon one of the increasing number of coloured runners will take the title - men like Tanzanian Filbert Bayi, who has already run 1,500 metres in a time equivalent to 3 minutes 49.5 for the mile.
But whatever happens, nothing will ever quite eclipse that moment, twenty years ago, when a man ran a mile in under four minutes.