Who was Roger Bannister? Who was Roger Bannister? You gotta be kidding me. Well, you're in for a treat on today's episode of Runner's High.
If you're new to the channel, hit that subscribe button before we get going, as I talk all about running and interview experts here on the Solpri YouTube channel. So, welcome to Runner's High. And in this episode of Runner’s High, we are starting the miniseries, Legends of Running.
So, let's get the easy part out of the way. Who was Roger Bannister? Since you're here with me on runner's high. The thing that we want to talk about, right, is that Roger Bannister is the first person to break the four-minute barrier in the mile in recorded history. Now, I say recorded history because who the heck knows what was going on before we were keeping track of all these things and we had a standardized distance and all that kind of stuff. So, maybe somebody at some point ran under it. But maybe I'm just a jerk, that's possible too. In any case, as far as we know, Roger Bannister was the first person in 1954 to go under four minutes in the mile.
The entire story of Roger’s accomplishment is detailed in the book, The Perfect Mile. That's where him, Wes Santee, and John Landy, were in an arms race to be the first person to go under the four-minute mile. There's this whole story, tells you the backstory of Roger, tells you the other characters. As a story develops, it’s a very compelling read. As a runner, you have to pick this up. If you don't read anything at all this year, then stop it, read this book, which is actually as I'm thinking about it, I have to go figure out where it is. So, you'll have to suffice by looking at the image on the screen. I've seemingly lost my copy when I moved houses. So, what am I going to do? Maybe you'll send me one, maybe I should just buy another one. In any case, you need to pick up this book and read Roger’s entire story to get the whole thing.
But that's not what I'm going to focus on today. Because that's not necessarily the most important thing about what Roger did with his life. You see, it was 1954. Roger was 25 at the time, and he breaks the four-minute barrier. All the accolades, all the congratulations, the roaring crowd, everything you could hope for when you were doing something so astounding in human history. But that was really just the beginning of Roger's career. At the time, he wasn't just training to break the four-minute mile, he was training to become a neurologist. So, in 1954, he graduated from St. Mary's, eventually goes on to Oxford in 1963. He graduates from Oxford with his medical degree, becoming a neurologist, kicking off his career that lasts decades of research into neurology, and into some topics that actually pertain to us as athletes.
Roger spent nearly 60 years of research working largely on the autonomic nervous system. And he said, and I have to look away from the camera for this, and I quote, “I’d rather be remembered for my work in neurology than my running. If you offer me the chance to make a great breakthrough in the study of the autonomic nervous system, I take that over the four-minute mile right away. I worked in medicine for 60 years, I ran for about eight.” See, Roger is the kind of person that I’d love to interview and really is the prototype of the person that I interview on my show, the Smart Athlete Podcast. Comes out on Fridays right here on this channel, so subscribe. But it's about people that do more than just move their body.
Now, these accomplishments that we have with our bodies are awesome. But there is so much more potential in the whole duration of our lives than just the things that we can do athletically.
I try my best to live my life without regrets. But if I have a regret, I guess I would say that I didn't have the opportunity to speak with Roger or have him on the show. Roger passed away in 2018 at the age of 88. So, he lived a very, very full life. And that comment isn't so much to say that, “Oh, I wish I had Roger Bannister on the show. And then it could be everything and people will watch and all of this…” No, that's not the thing. The thing is that I learn so much from the guests by just sitting and listening to them talk about their lives, talk about the things that they've done, and they've accomplished that it would be worth my time just to be able to speak with him. And the show is really only a pretense to do that.
So, here's the new thing for Runner's High this week, I have an assignment for you. I haven't done this before so I hope you'll follow with me and do this. Like I just said, I learned so much from listening to people that do all these things. But what you don't realize is that these kinds of people that live interesting lives live all around you. They may be a sibling, they may be a parent, they may be a child. It could be a friend or a co-worker, somebody you know tangentially but don't really know very well. Your assignment this week is to take somebody out to coffee.
In this case, it could be a socially distant coffee. But find somebody to have a conversation with, could be over Zoom, Skype if that's what makes you comfortable. That's what I do for the show. So, it works perfectly fine. But sit down and just ask them about their lives. You know, just ask them about their hobbies, their work, the things they do, and really listen. You know, how did they get into the field of work that they're doing? Why are they making these decisions?
What you may not realize is that, although I try to highlight people on the show that are big names, or do fantastical things much like Roger, there are people in your life that do things that are amazing every day. And I don't mean that in a hyperbole kind of way. These small acts sometimes make big differences both to you, to me, and to the people around us, and they can help inspire us to be better people. So, that's my assignment for you this week. I probably won't have another assignment for you next week.
So, hopefully, you can do this one thing for me. Report back, leave in the comments below what is the story that you learn from the person that you sat down with? I think this will help you. And hopefully, in time you start to see how this parallels with running and the things that they teach you or they tell you or the things you've learned from their lives, how those can be applied to running because it's all circular. It all comes back together. So, I'll see you next time on the next episode of Runner’s High.