Before 1954 the universal belief was that man could not run one mile within four minutes. The general conviction was that nobody was physically capable of achieving this. The claim that a 4-minute mile was once thought to be impossible by ‘informed observers was a widely propagated myth created by sportswriters and professionals in the industry.    

And then Roger Bannister came along and set a new world record.

On 6 May 1954 during a meet between British AAA and Oxford University at Iffley Road Track in Oxford, watched by about 3,000 spectators, a historic event was about to take place. With winds of up to twenty-five miles per hour before the event, Bannister had said twice that he preferred not to run. To conserve his energy and efforts to break the 4-minute barrier, he would try again at another meet. But then the winds dropped just before the race was scheduled to begin and Bannister made the decision to run.   

A few minutes later the stadium announcer for the race teased the crowd by delaying his announcement of Bannister’s race time for as long as possible.  

Ladies and gentlemen, here is the result of event nine, the one mile: first, number forty one, R. G. Bannister, Amateur Athletic Association and formerly of Exeter and Merton Colleges, Oxford, with a time which is a new meeting and track record, and which—subject to ratification—will be a new English Native, British National, All-Comers, European, British Empire and World Record. The time was three…

The roar of the crowd drowned out the rest of the announcement. Bannister’s time was 3 minutes 59.4 seconds. He did it. What everyone thought to be impossible, now a man that reportedly trained for only an hour a day, a man that was considered an amateur, had now succeeded in setting a spectacular new world record. 

And then Roger Bannister came along and set a new world record.

This record however, only lasted for 46 days, and the ‘four-minute barrier’ has since been broken by over 1,400 male athletes. 

Now, doesn’t this story sound like one of many? A sportsman competes, wins a match or race, and sets a new record? Sounds pretty ordinary right? And yet it is not at all ordinary. There is something remarkable about this story because of what happened after. Strangely enough, it took 9 years for a new world record to be set by Roger Bannister, and yet only 46 days for that same record to be broken and then numerous times after by hundreds of men. 

Now why was that? Why hadn’t that record been broken for so many years, and why did it take a month and a half to set multiple new ones? What changed?  

This is what changed. 

Somebody set a precedent that created a global belief. Now, it had been done before and that meant that someone else could do it too. You could do it. It was never impossible. It was only impossible for those who believed it could not be done. It seems that nothing is too big of a challenge. Only your thinking makes it so. What people have to understand, what all of us have to really wrap our heads around, is that there is no such thing as victory without failure.  

Bannister wasn’t born a runner and he most certainly didn’t win all of his runs. He actually lost more races than he won. He wasn’t considered an Olympic athlete nor a professional. Bannister was a medical student that prioritized his education more than his running, but what made him win was every victory, as small as they may have seemed to those in the industry, strengthens his mindset. He was inspired by Sidney Wooderson’s remarkable comeback, and just like Wooderson, he set the mile record, see it broken and set a new personal record.  

Bannister made the decision to win. And so did the rest of the world. Here was a man that broke an old record and now people started to believe in their own capabilities. This collective paradigm was now being overwritten and record after record was broken.

What people have to understand, what all of us have to really wrap our heads around, is that there is no such thing as victory without failure. 

This story tells us that the only thing that holds us back is our mindset. Granted, yes, environment, people and circumstances can have a tremendous influence on your life. When you’re working 3 jobs to make ends meet, raising children, providing for your family, dealing with other daily challenges, then yes, things can seem and be tough. We understand that.  

But everyone has moments that life feels like a mountain climb in flip flops. You take one step forward and two steps back. It can be discouraging but true success lies in your ability to overcome and try again. There is not one person in the world who has succeeded at something significant without failing at it at least one time. It is always about the journey. 

There really is no victory without trying, and we all know that trying doesn’t always work out the way you anticipated and hoped for. You can fail a 1000 times before something will succeed, but if you keep at it, believe in your ability to handle whatever comes your way, and stay focused, you will at some point, sooner than you’d expect, hone in on that end goal and be able to receive your prize.  

Do not NOT try. Try. And again. And then, if need be, a thousand times more. You are truly bigger than what is making you fear and avoid failure. 

Failure is a good thing. 


The MDC Team