Thursday, March 15, 2018

Roger Bannister

Roger Bannister passed away last week.

He was the first person to run a sub-four minute mile, and he did it in 1954. Mount Everest was climbed for the first time almost exactly a year earlier.

Sixty-five years later, more people have climbed Mount Everest than run a four-minute mile.

Anyone who runs knows the feeling of your body just shutting down after running near peak speed for too long, like an engine seizing up. Pushing into this pain is brutally difficult, and Bannister pushed more deeply than anyone ever had.

He wrote a book about it all, and I still remember reading it for the first time. It was superbly written and unbelievably gripping, and I still remember individual passages decades later.

Remarkably, not long after he broke four minutes in the mile, electrifying the world, he retired from competitive running to become a neurologist (an outstanding one, by all accounts).

The New York Times has a nice obituary, and in it they mention that his training base for the race was twenty-eight miles a week.


There's also footage from the race itself (it was actually a time trial, not a race, but whatever), and it's mesmerizing.

Also, in a world that seems defined by crudeness and downright dickery these days, Roger Bannister was a good person. I've never read one negative word about him, never found one person or incident that made me think less of him. He was universally respected and beloved.

That was the real triumph of his life.

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