On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister became the first person to run the mile in under 4 minutes. His time of 3:59:40 at Iffley Road track in Oxford bested the standing World Record by 2 seconds and broke a barrier many people thought was impossible.
His record didn’t last long, however. John Landy, a rival Australian runner, logged a time of 3:58:00 less than two months after Bannister’s run. The World Record fell 7 more times over the next 20 years.
So how does Bannister’s achievement stack up today, nearly 60 years later? Pretty well, actually. Sure, there are countless runners who can break the 4 minute mark now, but the current World Record time of 3:43:17 (held by Hicham El Guerrouj) is less than 17 seconds faster than Bannister’s record. And back in 2005, Bannister’s mile time was named the “Greatest Athletic Achievement” according to Forbes Magazine.
It’s worth taking a few minutes to watch the full race to see Bannister’s awe-inspiring performance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yWqwi6FcyH8