Sports legend Roger Bannister died Saturday at the age of 88. Remembering his remarkable achievements and lasting legacy in images. https://t.co/MDZYgz5YzC— Getty Images (@GettyImages) March 5, 2018
When a friend texted me Roger Bannister's obituary, I knew that I had to write something. He's one of those names that transcends his sport. Indeed, Bannister's breaking of the four-minute barrier wasn't just important for track fans. His name and accomplishment has become an emblem for confronting and overcoming the impossible.
I think this is why the image of Bannister crossing the finish line is so iconic, so lasting and memorable. It's an image of exhaustion, of emptiness, of putting absolutely everything into accomplishing a goal.
Additionally, off to the side, we see the marvel and wonder in the faces of the onlookers. The story goes that after Bannister finished, the race's three timers quickly gathered to compare their times. As fate would have it, all three watches had the exact same set of numbers. A miracle of hand-timing? Perhaps. But there were other miracles happening that day.
I am grateful Sightings for publishing my reflection, which begins...
When the recently deceased Roger Bannister began running track and studying medicine at Oxford, the four-minute mile had become known as “trackdom’s Holy Grail.” The religious allusion here was hardly accidental. Instead, it framed the magnitude of this barrier, its allure as well as its seeming impossibility.
Additionally, the symmetry and elegance of this particular distance and time was custom-made for sacred reference. As sportswriter Gary Smith observed, “Four minutes was a barrier that had withstood decades of human yearning and anguish, a figure that seemed so perfectly round—four laps, four quarter miles, four-point-oh-oh minutes—that it seemed God himself had established it as man’s limit.”
Indeed, for many years, the four-minute mile was little more than a launching pad for debating the human body’s intended design.You can read the rest here.