The running shoes used to set one of the greatest milestones in sports history are going up for sale.
The lightweight leather spikes worn by Roger Bannister when he broke the 4-minute mile in 1954 will go on the block on Sept. 10 in London at Christie’s auction house. Christie’s said Wednesday the shoes are expected to fetch between 30,000 ($47,000) and 50,000 pounds ($78,000).
The shoes, made by GT Law and Son, had long, thin spikes and weighed 4 ounces, much lighter than other shoes at the time.
“They served me great purpose,” Bannister said in the Christie’s announcement. “I’m grateful to them. I think it’s the right time to part with them.”
Bannister, a young medical student at the time, became the first runner to break the fabled 4-minute barrier when he clocked 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds on May 6, 1954, at the Iffley Road Track in Oxford. It was a record that many had thought humanly impossible at the time.
Reflecting on his iconic achievement in an interview with the BBC in 2014, the Englishman said “there was certainly a feeling of it being a national event and something of a landmark for the country”.
Bannister, who was knighted in 1975, is now 86 and lives in Oxford with his wife, Moyra. He is coping with the effects of Parkinson’s.
The shoes will be offered for sale along with a “letter of provenance” signed by Bannister and a letter written to him prior to the race denoting “the lightness” of the shoes.
Last link to record
“I could see there was an advantage in having the shoes as light as possible,” Bannister said. “The leather is extremely thin and the spikes are unusually thin, as I used a grindstone to make them even thinner. These shoes are the last tangible link I have with the 4-minute mile.”
On the morning of the race, Bannister sharpened his spikes on a grindstone in the laboratory at St. Mary’s Hospital in London, where he was studying.Bannister’s trophies are on display at Oxford’s Pembroke College, where he served as master.
Bannister said he plans to donate part of the proceeds from the auction to the Autonomic Charitable Trust, which encourages neurological research. He devoted most of his medical career to the study of neurological conditions.”Other worthwhile causes in which I have an interest will also benefit,” Bannister said.
On Tuesday, the stopwatch used to record the fourminute mile record in Oxford sold for £20,000. The Swiss-made chrome stopwatch was listed by sports memorabilia specialist, Graham Budd Auctions had been expected to fetch between £5,000 and £8,000.
Breaking the barrier
* Roger Bannister broke the 4-minute mile on May 6, 1954 at the Iffley road track in Oxford.
* It was a record many had thought humanly impossible at the time. The record had stagnated at 4.01.4 since 1945.
* Bannister utilised two pace setters— future Commonwealth Games gold medallist Chris Chataway and future Olympic Games gold medallist Chris Brasher— for his record run.
* A young medical student at the time, Bannister would become a distinguished neurologist and a master of Pembroke College, Oxford.