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Sports Legend Dies at 88….Yet His Legacy Lives On

As I was opening my computer to begin writing today’s newsletter, I saw an article about the death of sports legend Roger Bannister. Bannister, while surrounded by his family, died peacefully in Oxford England yesterday (3/3) at age 88.  As you may already know, for nearly 64 years, Bannister lived as one of the most famous athletes of all time for one single accomplishment- he was the first man ever to run a mile in under 4 minutes.  This accomplishment has a pretty cool story behind it and it also has a great lesson that you and I can learn from to help us in our lives today. 

For Years Many Thought It Was Impossible

In 1855, Charles Westhall of the U.K. was clocked running an unofficial world record mile in 4:28.  By the time official world record keeping began in 1913, the best time was only down to 4:13.  Countless runners kept falling short of the 4 minute mile mark and many believed no one could break it.

However, there were some that did not believe it was impossible.  Many men from all over the world trained hard in the hopes being the first one and as a result, from 1913-1945, the world record was broken 12 times by 8 different people.  It slowly but surely inched its way towards being under 4 minutes and in 1945, a man from Sweden ran it in 4:01.4. The 1945 record stood for 9 years despite countless runners feverishly trying to break it and legend has it that this led some to question whether the barrier could be broken at all.  

 In 1954, Everything Changed

By 1954, 3 runners looked like they had a legitimate chance of accomplishing this amazing feat.  One of them was 25 year old medical student Roger Bannister.  In 1948, Roger was running his miles around 4:10, and for 6 years he continued to push himself towards the 4 minute mile goal even though his training was limited by the intense workloads of being in medical school.  (As a bit of trivia, Bannister went on to become a successful Neurologist after his running career was over). 

With only 30 minutes of training per day leading up to the Oxford race, Bannister crossed the finish line just after 6 p.m. on May 6th, 1954 with a time of 3:59.4.  This sealed his permanent claim to fame as the first man to break the 4 minute mile barrier.  It also proved to everyone else on earth that this seemingly impossible feat was actually possible. 

Despite it taking almost 9 years for someone to break the previous record of 4:01, it took only 46 days for someone to break Bannister’s record.  In the 10 years following Bannister’s race, 14 other runners from just the United States broke the 4 minute mile barrier also. Less than 64 years later, over 4000 people have accomplished this same goal. 

12 Years Ago Roger Bannister’s Story Really Inspired Me

It was May 2006 and I was on my way to dinner with my in laws.  I was listening to an audio book that taught an array of personal development concepts and one of them spoke to me so powerfully that I never forgot it. He said that if you want to accomplish anything significant, you have to first believe that it is possible.  Next, he said that you have work diligently to accomplish your goals and you have to continue to believe that it is possible despite setbacks and failures along the way. To illustrate this point he told the story of Roger Bannister and the 4 minute mile.

While listening to him tell the story, I put myself in Roger’s shoes and thought about how much faith it would take to believe that I could do something that no one else had ever done.  I also thought about how much faith it would take to persist day after day, month after month, year after year, despite constantly falling short.  I began to use this example as a standard that I measured my confidence and resolve against from that point onIt has pushed me to rise higher and to not give up.  

What Does Your Own “4 Minute Mile” Story Say To You?

I’m willing to bet that you could name at least one significant thing in your life that you’ve accomplished.  Its probably far from a world record, but to you it was something very challenging that you’re very proud of yourself for accomplishing.  You may even have more than one. 

Let me ask you this- at some point in that journey, did you truly believe that you could accomplish that goal?  Did you believe it enough to keep pushing yourself during times when it got hard?  Did you resist the voices that told you to give up and quit?  Did you discover strength and resolve inside of you that you didn’t was there?

Let me tell you something that you already know- the same strength that got you through one situation can get you through another.  The same dedication, persistence, confidence and passion you had towards one goal, can be directed towards another.  If you did something great once, you can do something great again.   

I remember so many times when I was convinced that I should quit trying to get my body in better condition while I was battling leukemia.  I felt like it was taking so long to feel better and get in better shape that I kept telling myself it wasn’t worth it. 

Thankfully I didn’t listen.  Even though it took SO much longer than I thought it would, it was so worth it. Now I can look back on that accomplishment and see a reason to believe I can accomplish anything else that I put my mind to.  I hope remembering your own “4 minute mile” accomplishments gives you the same feeling. 

Here’s to life’s next race!


P.S.- Here’s an article on Roger, written today.  Click here


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