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The Amazing Story of Breaking the 4 Minute Mile

by Kris Deichler, Associate Partner, Lighthouse International

Before 6th May 1954, it was believed that to run a mile in under 4 minutes wasn’t humanly possible because it had never been done before. That was until a man called Roger Bannister; a physician, academic and middle distance runner from Harrow, England, decided to prove otherwise. On March 4th, 2018, he sadly passed away. This is his amazing legacy...

Using Defeat to Become Stronger

Two years previously - at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki - Bannister suffered a big disappointment, missing out on a medal and finishing 4th. However it was this that strengthened, not weakened his resolve to achieve something truly memorable...

On the 6th May 1954, in front of a big crowd in Oxford, England, he successfully ran a mile in 3 minutes 59 seconds, almost collapsing at the finish line but achieving something that has inspired millions of people ever since! What’s remarkable is that Banister was an academic first not a professional runner, yet since his achievement, many thousands have gone on to achieve the same feat and have even reduced the time by a further 17 seconds.

Here’s a wonderful video commemorating the event with an interview with Bannister himself…

Lessons From Breaking the 4 Minute Mile...

1. Failure Leads to Success! - Bannister used his defeat in the Helsinki games to build the determination and sheer will required to break this perceived barrier of human endurance.

2. Believe in Yourself - Here’s a link to another video where Bannister describes the entire event over real-time footage. The belief he had that it was possible and how he pushed all doubt out of his mind is a great example for us. When we push ourselves beyond our limits, what we achieve can surpass even the greatest of expectations.

3. Support is Crucial! - Two of his close friends, Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher ran alongside Bannister to provide pacing for him so he could measure his time and pace and ensure he was running fast enough throughout. Without them it wouldn't have been possible.

4. What We Do Inspires Others - The fact that so many have since gone on to break the 4 minute mile barrier is testament to the fact that by showing the world something is possible and not giving into the "I can't do this" or "this can't be done" mindset, we inspire belief in others that they can achieve it too.

Do you have a dream you’ve always wanted to achieve, but maybe haven’t felt it's possible? What is that dream? Share in the comments below...

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Roger Bannister image courtesy of Guiness World Records @ Youtube