Track and Field

Roger Bannister's shoes sell for over $540K

The running shoes worn by Roger Bannister when he broke the four-minute mile were sold at auction on Thursday for about $544,000.

Worn for first sub-4-minute mile in 1954

The shoes worn by Roger Bannister on May 6, 1954 when he broke the four-minute mile barrier at Oxford, England, were sold at auction to an anonymous bidder for about $544,000. (L. Blandford/Hilton Archive)

The running shoes worn by Roger Bannister when he broke the four-minute mile were sold at auction on Thursday for more than $540,000.

Christie's auction house said the lightweight leather spikes worn when he set the milestone in 1954 went to an anonymous buyer for 266,500 pounds (about $544,000 Cdn).

The price was much higher than expected: Christie's said the shoes were expected to fetch between 30,000 ($61,000) and 50,000 pounds ($102,000).

Bannister, a medical student at the time, became the first runner to break the fabled 4-minute barrier when he achieved 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds on May 6, 1954, at the Iffley Road Track in Oxford. It was a record that many had thought humanly impossible at the time.

He has said the shoes were his "last tangible link" to the milestone.

The shoes, made by GT Law and Son, had long, thin spikes and weighed 4½ ounces (128 grams), much lighter than other shoes at the time.

Kate Summers, Christie's head of sale for the auction, said the shoes were sold to an anonymous buyer on the telephone after 2½ minutes of bidding.

"They are the symbol of not only an historic moment in sporting history, but demonstrate what humans can achieve with determination and persistence," she said.

Bannister, who was knighted in 1975, is now 86 and lives in Oxford with his wife, Moyra. He is coping with the effects of Parkinson's.

Bannister said he plans to donate part of the proceeds from the auction to the Autonomic Charitable Trust, which encourages neurological research. He devoted most of his medical career to the study of neurological conditions.

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