The Four-Minute Mile Essay - Critical Essays

Roger Bannister


Bannister’s book is reflective, thoughtful, introspective, and intended for both adults and young adults. He engages readers’ attention by honest dissembling, by revealing his own estimates of his strengths and weaknesses as an individual and as a world-class athlete. He believes that the challenges of running, of training, of measuring himself against others, of competition, and of defeats and victories are responsible for affording him a deeper self-knowledge.

Unhappy as a schoolboy, Bannister discovered that running offered a chance to forget childhood dangers, fears, and a lack of friends. The sport served as a counterpoise to his general discomfiture as he changed schools and as a partial antidote to his innate shyness. Readers will note that this is an intensely personal book, but in an unusual way. Allusions to Bannister’s background, to his family, or even to romantic interests are nonexistent. Even his medical education at the University of Oxford, which he completed during his running years, receives mention only as it bears directly upon his competitions. Thus, contrary to his frequent assertions about believing in a balanced life—one in which running was assigned a modest part—he perhaps unconsciously leaves the impression that running was in truth all-consuming.

Although he had always enjoyed running, Bannister turned to it seriously in his teens. His natural build pushed him toward it—he was too thin and light for soccer or rowing—and his shyness, until later years, discouraged...

(The entire section is 630 words.)