LONDON – Britain’s Sir Roger Bannister, the first athlete to run a mile in less than four minutes, died at the age of 88 in the southeastern English city of Oxford, his family announced on Sunday.
“Sir Roger Bannister died peacefully in Oxford on March 3, aged 88, surrounded by his family, who were as loved by him as he was loved by them,” his family said in a statement.
Although Bannister’s May 6, 1954 record of 3:59.4 was held for just 46 days, as Australian John Landy ran the mile in 3:58 on June 21, his achievement was a landmark in athletic history, as it had previously been considered impossible to break the four-minute mark.
The president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, Britain’s Sebastian Coe, who in 1981 broke the then-record mile with a time of 3:47.33, expressed his regret at Bannister’s passing.
“This is a day of intense sadness both for our nation and for all of us in athletics. There is not a single athlete of my generation who was not inspired by Roger and his achievements both on and off the track,” Coe tweeted.
The world record for the fastest mile is currently held by Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj, who set a time of 3:43.13 in 1999 in Rome.