Form and Content

Born in Bath, England, in 1929, Roger Bannister was a serious, but always amateur, runner for eight years. During that period, he steadily increased his speed, cutting his time for the mile run from 4.53.0 (four minutes, fifty-three seconds, no fractions) to an amazing 3.58.8 in the 1954 Commonwealth Games, making him the fastest runner in the world. From childhood, running was a joyful expression, a creative experience that eased him outside himself and tested his emotional and physiological limits. Although his running years paralleled his education and training as a physician, Bannister never lost sight of his philosophy that running should be not central to his life but should be only one integral part that brought the balance that he sought. It is in that context that his autobiography, The Four-Minute Mile, should be read, for it concentrates not on the main portion of Bannister’s career but instead on his steps toward breaking the barrier of the four-minute mile.

The introduction aside, Bannister begins with his gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1954, the same year in which he had broken the official world’s record at a meet in Cambridge. Thereafter, his first-person narrative proceeds chronologically through fifteen brief chapters leading to his remarkable triumph. Nine full-page and half-page photographs capturing his crucial races form the book’s centerpiece. There are no other aids for readers: neither notes nor a...

(The entire section is 416 words.)