28 July -3.59.4 – 1954 and 2016 Iffley Road

A lot of numbers there. Firstly, it relates to the great landmark set by Roger Bannister in May 1954 in breaking the Four Minute Mile, which was commemorated in a wonderful BBC4 documentary last week. Even to those of us who know many of the details of the story and the history behind the event, it was tremendously poignant viewing with a fantastic breadth of contributors to make the story chime at many levels. We had other runners, both Bannister’s rivals  and subsequent legends who had been inspired by that first sub 4, journalists, sports scientists and even social historians. Plus of course Bannister himself, who has spent the last 62 years achieving important things as a world renowned neurologist. Perhaps the best single line which summed up Britain in the immediate food-rationed pre-Banister era was the USA Rhodes Scholar who took part in the famous race who mentioned his bemusement when his landlady asked him ‘ Which day would you like your eggs?

By a very neat coincidence the programme aired just after I had been at a British Miler’s Club meeting at the at the same Iffley Road venue.  The showpiece mile race was won by Andy Baddeley, gradually picking up the fitness which had previously seen him run 3.49 for the mile and reach the Olympic 1500 metres final. He has had some very rough years with depression which he has spoken candidly about, and so it was fitting that his wining time last weekend was, what else, an iconic 3.59.4.   

Closer to home, it was encouraging to see coachee Jack P improve his 5000m PB to 14.45 at the meeting, on what was an uncomfortably hot afternoon to be racing 12 ½ laps of the track in the sun.