University College School pay tribute to record-breaking former pupil Sir Roger Bannister

Sir Roger Bannister at the launch of Westminster Mile at Paddington Rec running track. Picture: Poll

Sir Roger Bannister at the launch of Westminster Mile at Paddington Rec running track. Picture: Polly Hancock - Credit: Archant

The former school of record-breaking runner and neurologist, Sir Roger Bannister has paid tribute to him.

Roger Bannister breaks the tape as excited onlookers check their watches to find that Bannister has

Roger Bannister breaks the tape as excited onlookers check their watches to find that Bannister has run the first ever sub-four minute mile - Credit: S&G and Barratts/EMPICS Sport

Sir Roger Bannister, who was suffering from Parkinsons disease, died at the age of 88 on Sunday March 4.

In 1954 he famously broke the world-record for running a mile, being the first person to run the distance in less than four minutes.

The former University College School pupil has a building named after him at the school.

He attended the school, in Frognal, between 1944 and 1946.

Headmaster of UCS, Mark Beard, paid tribute to him in a school assembly on Monday. Mr Beard spoke of Sir Roger’s athletics achievements but also his career as a leading neurologist.

He announced that the UCS athletics prize, which is awarded annually in June, will be named in Sir Roger’s honour.

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Later on Monday, under a signed photograph of Sir Roger, Year 7 students spent time writing poems in English teacher Andrew Mee’s classroom.

Simon Lewis, chair of the UCS Council, said, “Sir Roger was a revered Old Gower who achieved huge professional and personal success and worldwide fame which he wore with a lightness of touch and humility.

“This remarkable man is, was and will be, a role model for generations of UCS pupils.

“It goes without saying that the thoughts of the whole UCS community are now with Sir Roger’s family at this sad time.”

As well as attending UCS, he trained for his running challenge at Paddington Recreation Ground with his pacesetters, Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway.

There are two plaques at the running track on Randolph Avenue to mark its role in athletics history.

The Serpentine Running Club, which is based at Paddington Rec, paid tribute to him at their training session on Tuesday night, and held a one-mile relay in his honour.

A spokesperson for the club said: “Roger Bannister’s passing is very sad news indeed for our sport.

“As with many other runners up and down the country, he continues to be a great source of inspiration to our members as someone who excelled in our sport and did so with humility and modesty.”

Even more astonishing is that when he broke the record in Oxford 64 years ago, Mr Bannister was also training as a junior doctor, at St Mary’s Hospital, in Paddington. An amateur-athlete, breaking a world record while working as a junior doctor is a throwback to a time now almost forgotten, a world away from the professional athletes of today.

On the day itself, at the Iffley Road track, he famously judged the conditions by looking at a nearby church tower to see the Union Jack flag flying on top drooping, showing the wind speed had dropped. He decided the conditions were right for a record attempt.

Minutes later, he broke the finishing line tape. The clock showed he had run the distance in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds.

Having conquered the Everest of the athletics world, he retired shortly afterwards, aged 25, to focus on his medical career.

His record has since been broken again, but today more people have climbed the world’s tallest mountain than have run a four-minute mile.

After retiring he married Moyra Elver Jacobsson.

They had met a fortnight before his four-minute mile record. They went on to have four children together.

His son Clive followed in his footsteps to attend UCS in the 1970s.

A decade after retiring from sport, Sir Roger was appointed consultant neurologist at St Mary’s and London’s National Hospital, the world’s first neurological hospital, where he remained for the next 25 years.

He went on to establish a reputation as one of the leaders in his field.

However he never fully stepped away from sport.

He was the first independent chair of the Sports Council between 1971 and 1974. In 1975 he was knighted for his services to sport.

He retired in 1993, while Master of Pembroke College at Oxford University. He returned to Iffley Road to carry the Olympic torch ahead of the London 2012 games, in recognition of his achievements.

He is survived by his wife and children.