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The Powerful Lesson of 3:59.4

This article is part of “The Huddle” series by Frank Agin

On May 6th, 1954, an unidentified announcer gave the results for the recently completed race in a track and field meet being held at Oxford University. As he uttered “In the one-mile run, with a first place winning time of three-minutes …,” the crowd interrupted him, cheering in sheer excitement.

The winner of the race, the new world record holder and the first person to finish a mile in less than four minutes was Dr. Roger Bannister – a young medical student from Oxford University.  His official time, once the crowd permitted the announcer to continue, was 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds.

In the years following Dr. Bannister’s May 6, 1954 feat, hundreds of runners have run sub-four-minute miles (and some runners have achieved the feat hundreds of times themselves). In fact, later in May 1954, John Landy, a miler from Australia, also ran the mile in less than four minutes – lowering the world record for the mile to 3:58.0.

As of today, men over the age of 30 have run miles in less than four minutes as well as men over the age of 40. There are even women within striking distance of the sub-four-minute milestone. Currently, the world record is more than 15 seconds under four minutes.

However, prior to Dr. Bannister’s accomplishment, few believed that a human would ever break the four-minute-mile barrier. Experts from the athletic, medical and scientific community regarded running a sub-four-minute mile as an insurmountable limitation of the human body. After all, the previous world record of 4:01.3 had stood unchanged for nine years.

Despite what the experts said, Bannister thought otherwise. In his mind, it was not a question of whether or not someone could run a sub-four-minute mile. For Bannister the questions to be answered were “who” and “when.”

Bannister believed that someone would break the four-minute barrier. He believed that he was capable of doing it. He believed that his unique training methods would enable him to do it. And, in the end, his convictions and confidence carried him to world-renowned prominence.

The story of Dr. Roger Bannister’s sub-four-minute mile has a simple lesson for us in business and life. That lesson is that what others believe to be our abilities and limitations has absolutely no bearing on how high we can take ourselves. What does matter ultimately (and primarily), however, is what we believe to be our abilities and limitations.

Each of us needs to believe that within us is a “sub-four-minute type” performance regarding our personal or professional achievement. We need to believe that we have that performance where we cast aside all self-doubt and are feeling a “not if, but when” sort of confidence.  We need to endeavor to amaze those around us who do not believe – that population of so-called naysayers.

The lesson that Dr. Roger Bannister gave us in a particular 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds span of his life, is that for us to be as successful as we can be, the starting point is that we simply need to BELIEVE.



Frank Agin writes a monthly sports themed networking series for entitled “The Huddle“.  Frank is the founder and president of AmSpirit Business Connections and consults with individuals

and businesses on how to become more successful through networking. He is the author of two sports related novels,  Out of the Comfort Zone., and his latest hit, Rival.




Did you like this article?  Please write your comments below on your own sub 4-minute miles in your life and check out the other articles from “The Huddle”:


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3 Responses to The Powerful Lesson of 3:59.4

  1. Online Degree April 18, 2009 at 12:58 pm #

    Great to hear even in 1954 they had such precision timers

  2. chiropractors marketing May 25, 2009 at 12:28 am #

    what a record he surely have healthy body and good resistance,, maintaining your body healthy needs a proper discipline with your self


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