It was Aug. 7, 1954 when British medical student Roger Bannister and Australian John Landry raced each other in front of 35,000 fans at Empire Stadium at the Pacific National Exhibition in an event that was watched by millions more around the world on TV.
That race, held during the 1954 British Empire Games, was the first time in history two athletes ran a mile in less than four minutes and it was Bannister who came out the winner with a time of 3:58.8 beating Landry’s 3:59.6. That time was a personal best for Bannister who broke the North American record that day. The race was billed as the Dream Miracle Mile of the Century and later the Miracle Mile. The race is considered one of the most memorable moments in Vancouver sports history.
Bannister later gave up sports to continue his study of neurological medicine and eventually become director of the National Hospital for Nervous Diseases in London. Sir Roger Bannister died Saturday in Oxford, England at age 88.
PNE president and CEO Mike McDaniel said as a result, Bannister and the PNE are forever connected.
“The Miracle Mile was an extremely significant milestone in the history of Hastings Park and the PNE,” McDaniel said in a press release.
Miracle Mile facts:
- The Vancouver race capitalized on the media attention surrounding the rivalry between Roger Bannister and John Landy.
- The demand to see the race was so was so huge, CBC TV engineered one of its first live broadcasts that linked central and western Canada.
- Landy pushed into the lead in the first of four laps, while Banister held a close second throughout. Bannister always favoured keeping pace with the leader before breaking out in the last moment with what the commentator called his "famous burst of speed."
- With one-quarter of a lap left, Bannister overtook his competitor on his right, just as Landy peered over his left shoulder.
- An exhausted Bannister, who was met at the finish line by his coach and a host of RCMP, scored 3:58.8 — his personal best and a North American record.
- Landy was clocked second at 3:59.6.
- The lone Canadian entrant, Richard Ferguson, placed third with a time of 4:04.6. He became something of a celebrity and later appeared on Front Page Challenge, a long-defunct Canadian TV show about current news events.
- Bannister later complained that B.C.’s hot, dry weather made his feat more difficult. As well, he had come down with a bit of a chest cold shortly before the race, which may have contributed to his collapse at the finish line.
- The gangly, six-foot tall Bannister was also known as the “Big One." He won his first race at the age of 13 and began seriously training to break the four-minute landmark at 18.
- In the weeks following the Vancouver race, Bannister would claim the European title in the 1500 metre before retiring from competition. His time at the "Miracle Mile" remains his personal best.
- A statue created to commemorate the Miracle Mile is located at Hastings Park.