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It was on a wet, blustery day, May 6, 1954, that lanky English medical student Roger Bannister became the first runner to break the fabled 4-minute barrier in the mile, a feat that many thought was humanly impossible. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)
It was on a wet, blustery day, May 6, 1954, that lanky English medical student Roger Bannister became the first runner to break the fabled 4-minute barrier in the mile, a feat that many thought was humanly impossible. (Lefteris Pitarakis/AP)

Roger Bannister reveals he has Parkinson’s Add to ...

Almost 60 years to the day since becoming the first man to run a mile in under four minutes, Roger Bannister has revealed he is suffering from Parkinson’s disease.

The 85-year-old Briton said he had been suffering with the degenerative nervous disease for three years but only revealed it in a BBC radio interview marking the anniversary of his run in Oxford on May 6, 1954.

Bannister ran three minutes, 59.4 seconds on the Iffley Road track, now named after him, to break the four-minute barrier.

After a distinguished running career in which he also won a gold medal over one mile at the 1954 Commonwealth Games and the 1,500 metres at the European Championships in the same year, he became a neurologist.

He told BBC Radio Oxford: “I am having troubles with walking. Ironically it is a neurological disorder – Parkinson’s.

“There’s a gentle irony to it. I have seen and looked after patients with so many neurological and other disorders that’s why I am not surprised I have acquired an illness.

“It’s in the nature of things. I am being well looked after and I don’t intend to let it interfere – as much as I can.”

Bannister said he was diagnosed with the disease three years ago but has refrained from speaking publicly about it until now.

He added: “Just consider the alternatives – that is the way I look at it. One of my pleasures in life – apart from running – has been walking. Intellectually I am not degenerating and what is walking anyway?

“I know quite a lot about Parkinson’s and have treated a lot of people with it. I am aware of all the research that’s been done. I think it will take some time before there is a breakthrough. But the management and drug treatments are improving all the time.”

Bannister entered athletics folklore 60 years ago next Tuesday with Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway acting as pacemakers.

Brasher, who helped found the London Marathon in 1981, died aged 74 in 2003 and Chataway, who was 82, died of cancer in January.

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