Roger Bannister

1929 -

Breaking the Barrier

Bronze - Eino - 2004
Royal Russell School, Croydon

Could the mile be run in less than four minutes?  It offered a beautiful symmetry – four laps, four minutes - and held an intense fascination for the sporting world. On 6th May 1954, Roger Bannister reached a new peak in athletic achievement. At the Iffley Road track in Oxford, with just 250 yards to go, he kicked hard for home with that glorious long-legged, wide-striding run. His face, white and drawn, blurred through the tape – totally exhausted. The announcer began:

“Ladies and gentlemen. Here is the result of mile. First, number 41, R G Bannister, ……. with a time which is a new meeting and track record, and which – subject to ratification – will be a new English Native, British National, All-Comers, European, British Empire and World Record. The time was 3...............”

.........and the rest was drowned in cheers and uproar.  Yes, 3 minutes 59.4 seconds, the barrier had been broken.

Bannister’s triumph provided another major boost to the country’s morale. Despite the professionalism in approach, this was also a triumph for the ‘amateur’. Roger Bannister would shortly resume a medical career and become a highly distinguished neurologist. He was knighted in 1975.

Bannister’s achievement inspired the world-renowned Finnish sculptor, Eino. A keen runner himself (he often trained with such athletes as his great countryman, Lasse Viren), Eino created a striking sculpture in 2004 in his American studio – not at the behest of any commission but inspired by his own admiration for Roger Bannister. It has, since May 2008, stood in the grounds of the Royal Russell School, Croydon. The bronze sculpture captures the moment as Bannister is about to breast the tape in his legendary run. It represents a supreme moment when a barrier was broken and the sporting world changed.