Four-minute miler Roger Bannister

Forty-five years ago, on a small track outside Oxford, England, Roger Bannister did what many had thought was physically impossible: He ran a mile in less than 4 minutes.

Bannister had won the intervarsity mile race at Oxford for four years in a row, but his best time was a pedestrian 4:16.2. The year after his graduation he placed a disappointing fourth at the 1952 Olympics at Helsinki.

As a medical student, Bannister became preoccupied with the idea of breaking the four-minute barrier. He began to train.

On May 6, 1954, he ran a mile in 3:59.4 with the help of two pacesetters at an informal meet.

Bannister is understated about his achievement today. "I was unsuccessful in 1952, but had a good year in 1954," he said by phone.

Bannister retired from running seven months later. He became a noted neurologist and was knighted in 1975. Today he lives in Oxford, where he is a consultant.

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