Roger Bannister

Roger Bannister breaking the world mile record and the four-minute barrier in OxfordIt was 60 years ago today that Roger Bannister broke the 4 minute mile.  Mr. Bannister’s story is one of my favorites.  I use it in almost every talk I give for two reasons.

Reason #1 – People Said It Couldn’t Be Done

When Roger Bannister was training to break the 4 minute mile, all the people around him were saying it couldn’t be done.  In fact, medical doctors thought it was physically impossible, but Mr. Bannister ignored those naysayers and did it.

Doesn’t it seem that the naysayers just come out of the woodwork when you want to try something new?  Sometimes the people closest to us are the worst.  At times it’s even hard to get mad at these people because their intention can be driven by protection.  They don’t want us to get hurt.  These naysayers can make it very scary for trailblazers like Mr. Bannister, but they thankfully adopted the the mantra of author Susan Jeffers: Feel the fear and do it anyway.

Reason #2 – Breaking of Mental Barriers

Mr. Bannister broke the 4 minute mile in 1954.  According to, Motivating Yourself, by Mac Anderson, in 1955, just a year later in sanctioned races, 47 people ran the mile in less than 4 minutes.  Why?  Mr. Bannister demonstrated that it could be done.  Other runners said to themselves, if he did it so can I.

In our brain we establish barriers.  We decide we like this or that.  We are frightened of this but not that and when we do this we fire certain neurons in the brain and pathways are formed.  This relates to the fight or flight portion of our brain.  It’s a big filter called the reticular activating system.  The cool thing science is proving is these pathways can be re-written because our brain has something called neuroplasticity.  We can change the patterns our neurons have made when we change our beliefs.  We can use tools like affirmations, meditation and mantras to alter pathways.  Don’t ever call yourself an old dog because it is proven you can learn new tricks.

So on the 60th anniversary of breaking the 4-minute mile, I would like to say a big thank you to Roger Bannister.  Thank you for the inspiration, the motivation and a great story for me to tell.


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