Although not a contemporary of our children, even ten years ago, Sir Roger Bannister was one of the first names suggested for Rosendale’s House Teams in 2004, along with Daley Thompson, Paula Radcliffe and Cathy Freeman. In 2009, we were fortunate enough to have the Rosendale playground totally transformed into the marvellous area we have today. Letters were written to all four sporting icons to ask if one (or more of them) would be free to open the new playground and all four responded. Paula Radcliffe was still at the height of her career and was training in the US. Cathy Freeman was working in Australia with her newly formed charity for indigenous Australians. Daley Thompson was available and it was he who formally opened the “Thompson” playground, as it has become to be known, on Friday 27th November 2009. Strangely though, it was Sir Roger Bannister’s handwritten letter above, which is the most physical aspect of the process we now have, which has been stuck to the back of the PE cupboard door for nearly 10 years. The genial formality and politeness therein are truly from a different era.
Sir Roger’s first time for the mile (1610 metres) in 1946 was 4:24.0, his fastest time was 3:58.9, before his medical studies took priority over his running. Since that historic day in May 1954, an estimated 1,457 athletes have run one or more sub four minute miles and the 4 minute barrier has been beaten 4,911 times (mostly in the US, where the mile is still the metric of distance). The world record is currently 3:43.13 by retired Moroccan runner Hicham El Guerrouj, set in 1999. The fact that only 15 seconds have been shaved of Sir Roger’s 1954 time in over 60 years, with the developments in training and the advent of the professional athlete era, is quite remarkable.