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EXCERPT | Aug.16, 1954
The race betweenthe world's first four-minute men
August 16, 2009
Three monthsafter breaking the barrier Roger Bannister battled the man who had sincelowered his record. Paul O'Neil wrote in SI's debut issue.
The art ofrunning the mile consists, in essence, of reaching the threshold ofunconsciousness at the instant of breasting the tape. It is not an easyprocess, for the body rebels against such agonizing usage and must bedisciplined by the spirit and the mind. It is infinitely more difficult in theamphitheater of competition, for then the runner must remain alert and cunningdespite the fogs of fatigue and pain; his instinctive calculation of pace mustencompass maneuvers for position, and he must harbor strength to answer themoves of other men before expending his last reserves. Few events in sportoffer so ultimate a test, and the world of track has never seen anything equalto the "Mile of the Century," which England's Dr. Roger GilbertBannister—the tall, pale-skinned explorer of human exhaustion who first crashedthe four-minute barrier—won last Saturday from Australia's world-record holder,John Michael Landy.
It was the mostwidely heralded and universally contemplated footrace of all time. Thirty-twothousand people jostled and screamed while it was run in Vancouver's new EmpireStadium, millions followed it by television. Despite the necessity of jockeyingon the early turns and of moving up in a field of six other good men, Bannisterran a blazing 3:58.8 and Landy 3:59.6. Landy's world record of 3:58 stillstood, but on the battlefield Landy was beaten, man to man, and Roger Bannisterreigned again as the giant of modern track.
Bannister retiredfrom running that December to study medicine. He was named SI's 1954 Sportsmanof the Year, then later became a neurologist.
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