Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to run a four minute mile, passed away yesterday. Although he lived to the good age of 88. the world is much the poorer for his passing.
He absolutely fulfils all the criteria for Strong People, Amazing People, Inspiring People and his story is perfect for Motivational Monday. Bannister ran the mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds on May 6th 1954. At the time he was training as a junior doctor. He personified the spirit of the English amateur – much of his training consisted of going for a jolly hard run in his lunchbreak between lectures. When interviewed in later life about his achievement, he said he felt his subsequent work as a neurologist was of much greater significance than his running.
To me, however, the breaking of the 4 minute mile remains one of the great moments of the 20th Century, like the summiting of Everest the year before, not so much for the actual athletic feat (although that is impressive enough in its own right. I dream of one day running a 6 minute mile, but am pretty sure its not going to happen), but for the demonstration that limits only exist in our minds.
While training for his mile, Bannister visualised himself achieving his goal over and over. For years before, it had become accepted fact that it was physically impossible for a human to run a four minute mile. The acceptance of this fact became a physical limitation for runners. Swedish runner Gundar Haegg’s 4:01:4 world record stood for 9 years. No-one pushed themselves to break the record because they knew it to be impossible. Bannister decided that he would make it possible. By creating the certainty in his mind that he could do it, he was able to make it a reality. Bear in mind that this was 1954, many years before the New Age woo of the Law of Attraction.
Once he had proved it was attainable, so it became possible for others to follow. His record only lasted 46 days, and the mile record now stands at 3:43. Today most professional middle distant runners run a 4 minute mile. All of this is possible, however, only because he had the vision and the absolute certitude that he could do it. His triumph proves that with sufficient self-belief we can push back the boundaries of what is considered possible. I am never going to break any world records, but I am constantly faced with perceived limitations and ceilings, both in physical terms and in life in general, and Sir Roger Bannister’s example is an inspiration to push beyond those limits and achieve my goals.