Breaking records and challenging the limits of human ability are central to much of our understanding of athletic track and field sports, with a world record title arguably as valued as an Olympic gold medal. Some particular limits and records take on greater significance, however, as in the case of the Four-Minute Mile which was roundly believed to be impossible until Roger Bannister shattered the illusion with half a second to spare in May 1954.
These essays look at the background of Bannister’s achievement and the meaning that was ascribed to it by the media and the public at large, drawing on an array of interdisciplinary and international influences to unpick the legend surrounding an historic moment in our social and sporting past.
1. Introduction: The Sporting Barrier: Historical and Cultural Interpretations of the Four-Minute Mile John Bale & P. David Howe 2. The Idea of the Record Jim Parry 3. Bannister’s Feat in Austere Times: The Construction and Reproduction of a Sporting Trope Alan Tomlinson 4. How Much of a Hero? The Fractured Image of Roger Bannister John Bale 5. Roger Bannister’s American Image Caroline Collins 6. The Four Minute Mythology: Documenting Drama on Film and Television Garry Whannel 7. Inhibiting Progress: The Record of the Four-Minute Mile Jim Denison 8. Amphetamine and the Four-Minute Mile John Hoberman 9. Training Theory and Why Roger Bannister was the First Four-Minute Miler Arnd Kruger 10. Habitus, Barriers and the [Ab]use of the Science of Interval Training in the 1950s P. David Howe