Twin Tracks

Roger Bannister

The more I thought about it, the more obvious the connections became.


My first turn on the weekly assembly rota since the sad passing of Sir Roger Bannister perhaps made a celebration of his life and achievements an obvious theme.


But for Year 11 in particular it could not have been more resonant. An object lesson in approach in the months leading up to GCSEs....




Firstly, Mindset.


Breaking the four minute mile was as much a mental as a physical barrier.  A positive, can-do attitude to the challenge ahead was just as important to Bannister’s ground-breaking achievement as...


Planning and execution.


From March to early May he carefully managed his training in the time available to him between his studies. Intensive bursts of work, which had maximum impact. More on balance in a moment. Building towards a performance peak.


And even on the day of the race his planning - and therefore also his execution - was meticulous. Monitoring wind speed carefully by judging the fluttering of a flag on a nearby Oxford church so that the race started at the time that was likely to be most conducive to a record- breaking performance; working in unison with friends and fellow student athletes to carefully pace him through the first laps of his personal challenge.


And finally, balance - in everything.


Bannister’s approach to athletics - and to life - was one of perspective. As he wrote in ‘The First Four Minutes’, published in 1955:


‘We run not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves. It also does us good because it helps us to do other things better’.

Roger Bannister First Four Minutes

His training wasn’t based just on running; he walked and climbed in the Lake District with his friends. He built in variety into his preparations so he didn’t get stale. And of course most importantly he balanced his training with his studies as a medical student. One supported the other, offering release and refreshment.

Roger Bannister Twin Tracks

Wholly appropriately, his subsequently autobiography was entitled ‘Twin Tracks’ . A celebration of rounded achievement - in sport but also in his equally groundbreaking work as he latterly became renowned as one of the world's leading neurologists.  


How equally appropriate therefore that the assembly - with its messages about effective and balanced approaches to challenges of exam preparations - concluded with the presentation of Duke of Edinburgh Award certificates.


An expression of rounded, twin-tracked commitment, which I am sure Air Roger would have have richly endorsed.