March 8, 2018

A Man on the Far Side- Sir Roger Bannister March 23, 1929–March 3, 2018

By Doyne Phillips, Managing Editor for Southern Writers Magazine

Englishman Roger Bannister has always been a great study for me. Roger Bannister was the first man to break the four minute mile. For years it had been said by coaches, runners and sportswriters that is was impossible to do. No man can run that fast. It had been tried many times and was no longer considered a valid goal. Nine years had passed since the last record for a mile was set and that was 4 minutes 1.4 seconds. It was thought if no one had broken it in nine years it would not be done.

Roger Bannister did break it on May 6th 1954. Roger ran the mile in 3 Minutes 59.4 seconds. With others seeing this done they too tried and in the next fifteen years over 300 runners ran a mile in less than 4 minutes. Roger had opened the door. 

Roger Banister went on to become a distinguished neurologist earning an honorary doctorate from the University of Bath. He became Sir Roger Bannister when knighted in 1975. In 2004 on the 50th Anniversary of his 4 minute mile a British 50 Pence coin was minted in honor of the event. His record was noted by the British people as 13th in the top 100 World’s Greatest Sporting Events. One race, one record brought Sir Roger all the fame and glory for a life time. The win made the difference but the many attempts prior to and the failures not known were the secret to his success.

The late Thomas J. Watson, Chairman of IBM said, "Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It's quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You're thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn't at all... You can be discouraged by failure - or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember that's where you'll find success, on the far side." I am looking forward to seeing you on the far side.

For near 30 years now I have ended my job interviews with a new candidate with this question to them, “Can you tell me who Sir Roger Bannister is?” Many said they had no idea but just as many did recognize his name and knew of his success. I would review Bannister’s history and explain to them I am looking for a Roger Bannister. I am looking for someone that goes beyond what we are told is possible and opens the door for others. 

I will continue to do that but after all these years I will need to learn to ask, “Do you know who Sir Roger Bannister was?” 

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