THE BANNISTER EFFECT
People said it couldn’t be done. It wasn’t possible. The closest any human had ever come to running under a 4 minute mile was in the 1940’s, with a time of 4:01. Track athletes and experts believed the human body just wasn’t built to beat the 4 minute mile barrier.
After a subpar showing at the 1952 Olympics, medical student and Britain’s best mile runner, Roger Bannister, had a clear goal – to be the first athlete to run a mile under 4 minutes.
Due to his rigorous scholastic schedule studying to be a neurologist, Bannister would train his body physically running sparingly – a simple 30 minute daily interval routine was all he needed to prepare his body. While training physically was important, his self belief and vision made all the difference.
With a clear stretch goal (his best previous mile time was 4:03), the Harrow, England native would often close his eyes and visualize every step of the race. While creating this image mentally before it happened, Bannister would see the finish line, hear the roar of the crowd, and feel the excitement of making history.
What separated Bannister from the others who had tried and failed, was that he believed with all of his might that he could do it. He even would place a little piece of paper in his shoe while he ran that read 3:58.
This belief, clear vision, and determined practice paid off.
On May 6, 1954, the world of track and field was forever altered. Once was thought as impossible, was now possible. On an overcast and windy day (which finally died down), medical student Roger Bannister defied the odds and ran a world record, 3:59.4 second mile. The 3,000 plus crowd went wild. He had done it. Bannister defied what even physicians said couldn’t be done. What began first in his mind and felt in his heart, later became a reality in the record books. Bannister inspired millions that day – including his rival – Australia’s John Landry.
Just 46 days after Bannister shocked the world, Landy beat Bannister’s record. Not to be out done, the two paired off in what was dubbed as The Miracle Mile in August later that year. While trailing most of the race, Bannister beat Landy on the final turn.
Bannister defied the odds again. What seemed like a raced he couldn’t win (he trailed nearly the entire race), Bannister battled back and won more from his faith than from his feet.
Bannister’s goal that was written in his shoe came true. He posted a time of 3:58.8, while Landy finished just behind him with a time of 3:59.6. At that point in history, both runners had posted the top four mile times in the world.
For decades, people thought that breaking the 4 minute mile was unbeatable, but because of Bannister’s accomplishment, he inspired nearly a dozen runners to beat the 4 mile barrier within two years of his record.
- Bannister turned his 1952 Olympics failure of not medaling into fuel to improve
- He started his training with a clear goal, and visualized it occurring daily
- Bannister broke his goal down into smaller goals including shaving each lap by a specific time
- He carried over his discipline as an athlete into a successful career as a doctor of neurology
- After decades of believing something couldn’t be done, Bannister inspired hundreds of track athletes to BELIEVE and BEAT the 4 minute mile
Look at your life right now. What do you or others around you think to be impossible? Use Roger Bannister’s story as inspiration and as an example: With a clear vision, belief, and practice… you can create the Bannister Effect and turn the impossible into possible… and inspire others to do the same.