Today marks the sixty year anniversary of Roger Bannister running the first sub four minute mile. It is well worth noting here on this blog as it represents so much of what I value and write about – that of the mind influencing and effecting running performance.
If we take a look at the very famous Roger Bannister, cited here, there and everywhere due to his achievement of being the first man to run the four-minute mile: On the 6th May 1954 he ran the mile in 3 minutes and fifty-nine seconds. Many runners had got close to that time, but many questioned whether it was actually possible.
As stated today in this article at the Guardian online;
“Bannister’s performance was more remarkable still given his lack of training. He would skip his gynaecology lectures, enabling him to run for 45 minutes at lunchtime, and did only 35 miles a week. Most modern club runners would exceed that. However only 1,338 people have ever broken four minutes for the mile. It is also worth noting the effects of the cinder track, which is around one to one-and-a-half seconds a lap slower than modern surfaces.”
Swedish runner Gunder Hågg had run 4:01.4 and his fellow runner Arne Anderson had run 4:01.6. Their countryman and sports psychologist of the time (when Hågg had held world records at one mile, two mile, three mile, 1500m, 3000m and 5000m), Dr Lars-Eric Unestahl, had openly stated that perhaps Hågg and other runners were convinced that the four minute mile was impossible and therefore there was a mental barrier stopping runners achieving it. Bannister was confident it could be done and even later wrote:
“Though physiology may indicate respiratory and circulatory limits to muscular effort, psychological and other factors beyond the ken of physiology set the razor’s edge of defeat or victory and determine how close an athlete approaches the absolute limits of performance.” (Bannister, 1956 & 1981)
Once Bannister had run the sub-four minute mile, many others followed in rapid succession and it made sure that runners and other athletes started to look at their psychology as an important way of becoming a better runner or athlete. Of the research and studies available to us today, we can learn a great deal about the importance of psychological factors when it comes to running. It is lovely to champion the first four minute mile because Bannister showed us how his attitude and approach influenced his ability as a runner.
I never tire of watching the footage and find it very motivating to watch. I hope you enjoy it just as much as I do, I’ll be back soon: