Roger that… breaking ceilings

Roger Bannister

Cambridge’s star continues to rise as a centre offering young sporting aspirants a chance to compete at an elite level in their chosen field.

Families are locating here to provide their kids with opportunity to train in cycling, rowing, athletics, water sports, equestrian competition, triathlon, or numerous other sporting codes.

There’s champions-in-the-making among us who will rise to the challenge of taking things to a new level of achievement – whether it be in sport, or in many other endeavours.

Sixty-nine years ago this May, a young 25-year-old exemplified the quest for beating records and going ‘beyond’ known thresholds, by becoming the first athlete to run a ‘sub four minute’ mile.

Roger Bannister began the race of his life at Iffley Road Track at Oxford University, watched by about 3000 spectators. Informed ‘experts’ had emphatically decreed that it was physiologically impossible for a human being to run a mile in under four minutes. This 25-year-old trainee doctor believed the limitation existed in mental attitude, rather than in any physical constraints of the body.

It’s inspirational to me, watching actual footage of the race with Roger Bannister (later ‘Sir’), narrating in his dignified British ‘plumb’. His voice over, which was added much later gives wonderful insight into his thoughts, emotions and strategies throughout the phases of the race, up to his finishing kick with just over a half-lap to go- about 275 yards out from the finishing tape.

Murray Smith

It was a phenomenal achievement – yet his record was short lived.

It was broken 46 days later by Australian runner John Landy. Others followed in quick succession.

But it was Roger Bannister who in breaking the “four-minute barrier”, smashed a perceived ceiling that paved the way for others.

Since May 1954, that ceiling has been successively broken by over 1400 athletes, and it’s now the accepted standard of any male professional middle distance runner. To date, the mile record has been lowered by almost 17 seconds, currently standing at 3:43.13.

Becoming a distinguished neurologist, Sir Roger Bannister was prouder of his contribution to medical science than he ever was of breaking the four-minute mile. The point is – people who believe greater things are possible, create breakthrough momentum for others.

Eric Liddell

By believing, dreaming and pursuing bigger and better things, in spite of challenges, they’re a gift to us all. They inspire pressing beyond limitations.

Notable rugby international and athlete Eric Liddell (Chariots of Fire fame) is someone who tasted his share of defeat and failure without allowing it to define him. His inspiring motto, “live a God-guided life,” served him well. Winning the 400 metres at the 1924 Paris Olympics, he accomplished a long-held dream to win an Olympic gold medal. Fruitful years followed as a missionary in China.

Our community is filled with people carrying amazing God-given potential. Sadly, many won’t rise to their potential, rather they’ll succumb to ‘ceilings’ resulting from disappointment, discouraging words, criticism and past failures.

Liddell’s charge to “live a God guided life” is the key in rising to all we’re meant to be.


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