To mark the anniversary of his extraordinary achievement in May 1954, Sir Roger Bannister relives it all in a special podcast.

Roger BannisterThe triumphant runner after breaking the four-minute mile record at Iffley Road

Roger Bannister‘First: R G Bannister, with a time which is a ground record, a British record, a British all-comers’ record, a European record, a British Empire record and a world record, of three—’

Announcer Norris McWhirter’s remaining words at the Iffley Road track on 6 May 1954 were drowned in the roar of the crowd. Roger Bannister had run the mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.

In a special podcast to mark the anniversary of his extraordinary achievement, the man at the centre of it all gives his perspective. Sir Roger recalls how he developed as a runner while reading medicine at Exeter and Merton colleges; describes his training before the record-breaking run unfolded; and reveals how he might not have made the four-minute mile attempt that day but for the flag on a nearby church.

‘Going sub-four’ has been only one part of a long life of many achievements. Sir Roger also talks about the medical and academic career he undertook after retiring from running, including his work on heat illness while on army service in Aden, and his pioneering work on the autonomic nervous system.

As well as inspiring generations of runners, Sir Roger has also had a wider impact  upon sport. When he was chairman of the Sports Council in the 1970s he introduced the first anabolic steroid tests for athletes. He was Master of Pembroke from 1985 to 1993 and in January he was made a Companion of Honourfor services to sport.

Listen to Sir Roger Bannister’s podcast here

Portrait of Sir Roger Bannister by Oxford University Images / John Cairns. Archive photograph courtesy of Oxfordshire History Centre.



While a graduate student at Oxford in the 1990s, I attended a formal dinner at a nearby public school where I had spent a prior year as a visiting teacher. The Headmaster seated me next to a distinguished guest, a doctor, whose name I didn't hear clearly as we were introduced to one another. No matter, I spent the next hour mainly talking about myself and answering his thoughtful questions. At one point, he asked, "Do you do any sport?" I started to ramble about various pastimes, including sculling and running around CC meadow. He replied quietly, "I used to run a bit myself." I barely took note as I continued to natter on about myself and he continued to listen as graciously and attentively as before. A few minutes later, the formal part of the program began and the Headmaster introduced my dinner partner: "Ladies and Gentlemen, I'm pleased to welcome Sir Roger Bannister...."

By William Henry R...

I was in the Oxford team v the AAA that day. Norris McWhirter, the announcer and himself an athletics blue, was a stickler for accuracy an the opening of his announcement was: a time which was, subject to ratification, a ground.......

By Jaroslav Dedek

The under 4 minute mile was more a psychological barrier than a physical one, as within the next 12 months after Sir Roger Bannister's record breaking run, several more athletes managed to run under 4 minute miles.

By Robert Nott.

I read somewhere that in the final stages of his record breaking mile, Bannister was so short of air that his vision went black and white. Is there any truth in the story?