It was 70 years ago today…..

May 6, 1954, arguably the most significant date in the history of athletics. Why? Quite simply what was thought to be impossible was proven to be possible.

The dream of the four-minute mile. It was the holy Grail. Many had embarked on the quest; many had come close but there could only ever be one first. Who would that be? John Landy? Roger Bannister? Wes Santee?

This day 70 years ago at Iffley Road, Oxford, England the question was answered.

Roger Bannister had meticulously planned the attack in conjunction with trusted training partners Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway who would act as pacemakers. This would be the day, although right up until gun time Bannister was unsure. The weather conditions in Oxford throughout the afternoon were far from ideal. Grey skies, and offering including one downpour, but worse again gusting wind. Just before the 6.00pm start time the rain had stopped and Bannister observed that the wind was now merely fluttering the flags. It was on!

The field of 7 were tense and nervous, indeed Brasher false started. Once the race got going the trio were in formation – Brasher, Bannister, Chataway. Brasher reached the half mile in 1:58, at this stage it was Chataway’s turn, he overtook Bannister taking the lead with the long striding medical student on his coat tail. Chataway hit the ¾ mile in 3:01, with 300 to go it was down to Bannister and his huge stride with the Oxford crowd roaring him on. Bannister crashed through the finishing tape collapsing into the arms of friends totally and utterly exhausted.

Has Bannister done it? There were no electronic timing clocks in 1954!

Then the stadium announcer, Norris McWhirter (later of the Guinness Book of Records fame) announced:

‘Ladies and gentlemen, here is the result of event number 9, the one mile, 1st, number 41, R. G. Bannister of the Amateur Athletic Association and formerly of Exeter and Merton Colleges, with a time which is a new meeting and track record, and which, subject to ratification, will be a new English native, British national, British allcomers, European, British Empire and world record. The time is three…’

The crowd erupted. The four-minute barrier was gone. The impossible had happened. It was Roger Bannister. It was 3:59.4. It happened this day 70 years ago.

The World Mile Record, Santry

Santry played its part in the continued story of the four-minute mile. Four short years later, August 6, 1958 Herb Elliott lowered the mile world record to 3:54.5 as for the first time in history 5 men in the same race ran sub 4 – Elliott, Merv Lincoln, Ronnie Delany, Murray Halbert and Albie Thomas.

That story continued with the first sub- 4-minute Morton Mile courtesy of Kip Keino on 10 August 1970 and since then a total of 162 sub 4’s  have been clocked in the Morton Mile.

The Morton Mile continues the sport’s quest for the sub 4, providing opportunities for athletes to achieve and fans to savour. The Mile, as tradition calls for, will be the climax of this year’s Morton Games World Athletics Continental Tour meet in the Morton Stadium Dublin on Friday, July 12.

Tickets are available now:

Admission -€10. U/16 – Free

TICKETS: purchase online through Event Master.