Roger Bannister, First to Run Sub Four-Minute Mile, Dies at 88

Bannister clocked a time of 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds in Oxford, England

Roger Bannister, who electrified the sports world and lifted postwar England’s spirits in 1954 when he became the first athlete to run a mile in under four minutes, has died at 88.

Mr. Bannister died Saturday in Oxford, the city where he accomplished the feat many had thought impossible. He had been slowed in recent years by Parkinson’s disease and, before that, an ankle shattered in a 1975 auto accident.

On a typically cool, wet and blustery English day in May nearly 64 years ago, the lanky medical student put on his spikes and ran four laps around a cinder track in 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds, for one of the defining sporting achievements of the 20th century.

The image of the young Mr. Bannister—head tilted back, eyes closed and mouth agape as he strained across the finishing tape—captured the public’s imagination, made him a global celebrity and boosted the morale of Britons still suffering through austerity measures.

Mr. Bannister soon retired from competition and went on to a distinguished career in medicine, and his mark was broken many times, with the world record for the mile now at 3:43.13. But he was a national hero to the end.

Prime Minister Theresa May saluted Mr. Bannister as a “British sporting icon whose achievements were an inspiration to us all.”

While he will forever be remembered for his running, Mr. Bannister said he considered his contributions to neurology more…

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