Updated: 05/06/2014 08:50 | By Agence France-Presse

Beating Landy matters more to Bannister than mile record

Sixty years since becoming the first man to run a mile in under four minutes, Roger Bannister has said defeating Australia's John Landy to win Commonwealth Games gold was a greater achievement.


Beating Landy matters more to Bannister than mile record

Britain's Roger Bannister (L) hands the Olympic flame to student Nicola Byrom (R) at the Iffley Road track in Oxford on July 10, 2012

It was at the Iffley Road track in Oxford that Bannister achieved sporting immortality by running a mile in a time of three minutes 59.4 seconds on May 6, 1954.

But defeating Landy -- who had lowered the mile mark just 46 days after the Briton's record-breaking feat -- at the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver was the superior feat in Bannister's opinion.

"I think that racing in the Olympics and Commonwealths is more important than breaking records," Bannister said, with the current mile world record held by Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj in a time of 3:43.13 secs.

"Vancouver was the pinnacle of my athletics career. It is very difficult to break records during Olympic competition, but winning races was better than holding world records."

Having suffered the disappointment of coming fourth in the final of the 1500 metres (0.932 miles) at the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Bannister was determined to do better at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games (now known simply as the Commonwealth Games).  

Landy led for most of the race, but Bannister overtook him on the final bend, when the Australian looked round to check his position.

"The race between the two of us was a very, very special race," Bannister said of a contest dubbed the 'Miracle Mile'.

- Landy the favourite -

"It determined which would be regarded as the superior runner in history, not the not the sub four minutes, but the head-to-head nature of the race in Vancouver.

"He was the favourite by then and he was probably a stronger runner, but I had a stronger finish.

"I just had to hang on as much as I could when he was trying to run me off my feet, but I managed to hang on and overtake him.

"I had to overtake him on the bend and I knew the only place he could look and see if he had dropped me was on the last corner, so I left it so we were just at the edge and, fortuitously, he looked over his shoulder and I overtook him."

A bronze sculpture of the moment Landy glanced round now stands outside the Pacific National Exhibition in Vancouver, having been moved following the demolition of the Empire Stadium.

Landy once joked: "While Lot's wife was turned into a pillar of salt for looking back, I am probably the only one ever turned into bronze for looking back."

Now his one-time rival Bannister said, at the age of 85, he had trouble walking, let alone running, after revealing he was suffering from Parkinson's disease.

The condition progressively damages part of the brain over time and is one Bannister was familiar with, even before he was first diagnosed a few years ago, from his lengthy career as neurologist 

"I am having troubles with walking. Ironically it is a neurological disorder -- Parkinson's," Bannister told the BBC.

"There's a gentle irony to it. I have seen and looked after patients with so many neurological and other disorders that's I am not surprised I have acquired an illness. It's in the nature of things.

"I am being well looked after and I don't intend to let it interfere -- as much as I can."

He added: "Just consider the alternatives -- that is the way I look at it.

"Intellectually I am not (degenerating) and what is walking anyway!"

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