First runner to break 4-minute mile dies at 88

Sir Roger Bannister, famed for being the first runner to break the four-minute-mile barrier, died Saturday in Oxford, England.

Bannister was 88. Bannister’s family announced the news in a statement released Sunday.

In a statement distributed by the UK’s Press Association, his family said that Sir Bannister died peacefully, “surrounded by his family who were as loved by him as he was loved by them.”

Bannister accomplished a feat many deemed impossible when he ran a mile in 3 minutes 59.4 seconds at Oxford’s Iffley Road track on May 6, 1954. Bannister’s record time only stood for 46 days before being broken by Australian runner John Landy, but Bannister’s accomplishment forever changed the perception of what was possible in distance running.

Indeed, in a tweet from British Prime Minister Theresa May, Bannister was recognized as an “icon” whose accomplishments served to inspire generations.

Later in 1954, Bannister retired from athletics to focus on his study of medicine at the University of Oxford, eventually becoming a neurologist.

He was named the first chairman of the English Sports Council in 1971, and remained in that position until 1974. Bannister was knighted in 1975, and served as the Master of Pembroke College at Oxford University from 1985 until 1993.

The family’s statement did not provide any information about the cause of death.