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Vancouver’s four-minute ‘Miracle Mile’

The Story

On May 6, 1954, British medical student Roger Bannister made history by becoming the first person to break the coveted four-minute mile. Three months later he defended his title against seven other runners at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. This early CBC Television coverage captures the drama of the "Miracle Mile" race as Bannister went toe-to-toe against his rival, and fellow four-minute mile breaker, Australian John Landy.

Medium: Television
Program: CBC Television News Special
Broadcast Date: Aug. 7, 1954

Duration: 6:45

Did You know?

• Originally billed as the "Dream Miracle Mile of the Century" the Vancouver race capitalized on the media attention surrounding the rivalry between Roger Bannister and John Landy.
• Six weeks after Bannister ran the mile in 3:59.4 in Oxford, Landy became the second man to break the landmark with a 3:57.9 mile in Finland. This race pitted the two record breakers against one another.

• The Aug. 7, 1954, event saw more than 35,000 spectators crowd into Vancouver's Empire Stadium. The demand was so strong that CBC Television engineered one of its first live broadcasts that linked central and western Canada.

• Landy pushed into the lead in the first of four laps, while Banister held a close second throughout. Bannister always favoured keeping pace with the leader before breaking out in the last moment with what the commentator called his "famous burst of speed."
• With one-quarter of a lap left, Bannister overtook his competitor on his right, just as Landy peered over his left shoulder.

• An exhausted Bannister, who was met at the finish line by his coach and a host of RCMP, scored 3:58.8 -- his personal best and a North American record.
• Landy was clocked second at 3:59.6, but still retained the world record that he set in Finland.
• The lone Canadian entrant, Richard Ferguson, placed third with a time of 4:04.6. He became something of a celebrity and would later appear on Front Page Challenge.

• Bannister later complained that British Columbia's hot, dry weather made his feat more difficult. As well, he had come down with a bit of a chest cold shortly before the race, which may have contributed to his collapse at the finish line.
• The gangly, six-foot tall Bannister was also known as "The Big One." He won his first race at the age of 13 and began seriously training to break the four-minute landmark at 18.

• Three official timekeepers were on hand for Bannister's record-breaking run at Oxford University's Iffley Road track. Officials from the International Amateur Athletic Federation noted that the school's track was actually a half-inch longer than the required 440 yards, which means that after completing four laps Bannister had actually run two inches more than he had to.

• In the 50 years since the record was first broken, a number of so-called "four-milers" have succeeded Bannister's original record. Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco became the current record holder when he ran the mile at a time of 3:43.1 in July of 1999 in Rome.

• In the weeks following the Vancouver race Bannister would claim the European title in the 1500 metre before retiring from competition. His time at the "Miracle Mile" remains his personal best.
• Bannister would return to his study of neurological medicine and eventually become the director of the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London.

• After placing second in the "Miracle Mile" Landy would retire from athletics to teach agricultural sciences.
• It was later revealed that he had run the race with four stitches in his foot, an injury sustained from stepping on a flash bulb.
• He would return to competitive racing at the 1956 Olympic Games in Melbourne, but would never beat his "Miracle Mile" time.


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