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Roger Bannister (1929–2018)

Author of The First Four Minutes

3+ Works 138 Members 4 Reviews

About the Author

Roger Gilbert Bannister was born in Harrow, England on March 23, 1929. On May 6, 1954, he became the first man to run a mile in under four minutes. Later that year, he won the mile at the Empire Games and the 1,500 meters at the European championships. He retired in December to concentrate on show more medicine. He received a medical degree from Oxford University. He had a long career as a neurologist, both in research and clinical practice. His 1955 memoir The Four-Minute Mile was reissued 50 years later as The First Four Minutes. He was knighted in 1975. He died on March 3, 2018 at the age of 88. (Bowker Author Biography) show less

Includes the name: Sir Roger Bannister

Works by Roger Bannister

Associated Works

Brain and Bannister's Clinical Neurology (1973) — Editor, some editions — 39 copies
Feel younger, live longer (1977) — Foreword — 2 copies


Common Knowledge



After reading "The Perfect Mile", I wanted to get Roger Bannister's perspective, and read this book also.

I enjoyed this book immensely. Perhaps I enjoyed this book more than some of the other reviewers because I am a runner, and thus it had a lot of meaning for me. Here are a few things that I quoted to my extended family in a letter when I had only read half the book.

“As a neurologist, I now understand more about such sources of pleasure and pain and the strange, some say mystical experiences that come to those who extend their physical powers to the limit and beyond.” (P.10)

“... my grasp of the reasons why I run continues to grow.” (P.13)

“Until quite recently, if I had been asked what running meant to me I should have replied ‘I don’t know.’” (This was written 10 years after he ran the sub-4 minute mile!; P.14)

“It is strange how we strive unwittingly towards our own treatment and cure, battling our heads against many doors until we find one already open.” (P.39)

“If we aim at a star we may occasionally reach a height normally beyond us. I think we are sometimes wrong to criticize ambition,” (P.48)

“...that select group in Oxford, one of whom had boasted, ‘Yes, I have occasionally felt the urge to take exercise, but I just lie down until it passes off.’” (p49)

“The Greek ideal was that sport should be a preparation for life in general. Physical perfection was a worthy end, and the striving heightened rather than dulled perception of other things.” (P.82)
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bread2u | 3 other reviews | Jul 1, 2020 |
This book is about Roger Bannister, the first man to run a mile in less than 4 minutes. The book starts out with a chapter about how he won the European championship. The next chapter is about when he was growing up. He was born in London, but because of the war, his family moved to Bath, a city near the coast of England. He ran since he was a little boy, and he won many local competitions. When he was older, he moved back to London and attended a school that he hated. He was very shy and didn’t run much until he attended Oxford University. Then he joined many different running clubs and ran all sorts of races. After he graduated, he helped out at the olympics which were in England at the time. After that he flew to America and ran some races there, and as soon as he got back home, he had to go race in Switzerland, and then he had to race all over Europe, and he got kind of sick of it so he quit and hitchhiked around Europe for a bit until he got back to racing. He raced in New Zealand, and in the Olympics, and in the European Championship, and finally, on may 6th 1954, he ran the first sub-four minute mile.
I rate this book two stars. It was really well written, I just didn’t really like it. It’s just not my kind of book. I liked reading about post-war Britain, I just didn’t really like the running. I was disappointed with the ending too. I wanted more of what happened in his life after the four minute mile. But that’s just my opinion.
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tenisonf.b4 | 3 other reviews | Mar 22, 2018 |
Sir Roger Bannister, M.D., no less. He's a neurologist now. The main thing to take away is that you can perform quite well with fairly little training. Bannister thinks that more training will help you recover faster, but will not improve your performance on race day -- assuming you didn't run recently. At least, that's what he wrote in 1955, one year after he broke the four minute barrier:

"Running is more than just slogging and training. Excessive training quickens the rate of recovery, but it has yet to be shown that performance is better on the day of the race."

His point being that professional athletes who spend all their time running and training will not do significantly better than amateurs who train half an hour a day (like he did). His 1994 preface shows his views may have changed, though to what degree I cannot tell:

"But the main reason for the steady improvement lies in the training -- more than two hours each day, often in two sessions, instead of my daily 30 minutes!"
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lipi | 3 other reviews | Nov 7, 2007 |
Essentially Bannister's autobiography. Runners might be disappointed by the lack of running stories, it's much more about how he balanced training with school.
Boneillhawk | 3 other reviews | Jul 29, 2006 |

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