Ready, steady, go audience
- By: Helen Macdonald
Sir Roger Bannister was not always a knight. In 1954, when he smashed the world record by running a mile in under four minutes, he was a 25 year old medical student studying at St Mary’s Hospital in London. Medical students may take a navel gazing interest in the story of a record smashed by one of their own kind, but Bannister’s mile is a great story for other reasons.
Bannister’s is a story of a scientist. “Here was a heart. Here were muscles. Here were lungs.” He challenged his anatomy and physiology to a self experiment. The research question: “To what extent can this bit of machinery be trained to do a very specific, skilled task?” In the 1950s the sub-four minute mile was thought impossible. Four was a nice round number for headlines, and rolled off the tongue like the sub-10 100 m or sub-20 200 m (both