International Athletics

Bannister's 4-minute mile shoes on auction

2015-05-20 16:04
Sir Roger Bannister (AP)

London - 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 September 10 in London at Christie's auction house.

Christie's said Wednesday the shoes are expected to fetch between £30 000 and £50 000.

The shoes, made by GT Law and Son, had long, thin spikes and weighed 4½ 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 3:59.4 on May 6, 1954, at the Iffley Road Track in Oxford. It was a record that many had thought humanly impossible at the time.

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.

"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.

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