Sir Roger Bannister’s historic ‘4-minute mile’ running shoes to go on auction

The running shoes used to set one of the greatest milestones in sports history are going up for sale.

Britain's Roger Bannister, a 25-year-old medical student, breaks the tape to become the fastest miler in the world, at the Iffley Road track, Oxford, England, May 6, 1954. Bannister, runnning for the Amateur Athletic Association against Oxford University, became the first man to break the four minute mile, clocking 3 minutes, 59.4 seconds. AP Photo
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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 the shoes are expected to fetch between £30,000 and £50,000 (Dh170,976 and Dh284,961).

The shoes, made by GT Law and Son, had long, thin spikes and weighed four 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 impossible at the time.

Bannister, 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 before 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.