I was sad to hear of the passing of Roger Bannister on March 3. Bannister was one of my heroes who gave me an understanding of a breakthrough early in my life and career. As most know, he was the first person to run a mile in under 4 minutes when he clocked a 3:59.4 mile on May 6, 1954. To most of us, that is still extremely fast, yet most college milers today can run a sub 4-minute mile. Bannister’s held the record for just 46 days, and it has been broken 18 more times and currently holds at 3:43.13.
Popular lore of the day was that cardiologists thought the human heart might not be able to function properly to withstand the rigors for a person to achieve a sub-4-minute mile and to do so was crazy or even flirting with death. Bannister thought differently. He dared to change his training routine and his diet, though today we would laugh at his training and diet in 1956. Still, it was new and cutting edge, and athletes today still follow his thinking about improvement. Something else that impressed me about Roger Bannister was that he got additional coaching to maintain a positive attitude towards achieving his goal, as he realized what he thought and felt had a direct impact on his behavior and results.
Bannister’s life and breakthroughs did not stop with the sub-4-minute mile. He went on to have a highly distinguished career as a neurologist and earned the inaugural American Academy of Neurology’s Lifetime Achievement Award. I appreciated David Epstein’s quote in Sports Illustrated, “Bannister’s 3:59.4 will forever stand as a breakthrough that rendered normal what once felt impossible, which is the best king of a breakthrough one can make — on the track or off.”
Sir Roger Banister, MD, CH CBE 1929-2018
What seems impossible to you or your team today, that one day might be made possible if you put on your servant lenses?