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The Bannister Effect

BannisterOn May 6th in 1954, Roger Bannister broke the World Record for running the mile. He was the first man to run one mile in under four minutes. Many runners had attempted the run but all had failed until Bannister. Although he is remembered for “breaking” something, I contend that what he created was much more important: possibility.

The key to Bannister’s run is that he opened the door of possibility for other people to do the same*. He pushed the edge of what humans were capable of doing. All it takes is one person to show us that our limits are not what we thought they were. Lindberg, Edison, Robinson and countless others swept aside the past to show a brighter future with fewer limits. It seems to be the natural order of things that when the bar is raised, we rise to the occasion to meet it. From my own life, I know that my father was the first in his family to go to college. It is no longer a novelty. All of my brothers and I attended college. The Bannister Effect could be found in many people’s lives.

Is the difference between impossible and possible only a matter of time? How many people told Bannister he couldn’t before he did? How many people scoffed at Lindberg before he was cheered in Paris? How many people turned a blind eye to Edison before they saw the light?

The critics will always be there and their ridicule of your dream will be true, until it’s not. In the end if you give up, they’ll have their “I told you so” moment and everyone will move on. If you persevere and triumph, they’ll stand silent and everyone will move up. I would love to see you rise up rather than give up.

*Additional information: World Records for the mile date back to the 1850s.  The time slowly and incrementally decreased over the next ninety years when Gunder Hägg of Sweden ran a 4:01.4.  Then it took ten years before Bannister broke through the four-minute barrier.  Six weeks later, Bannister’s record was broken.  Today his time from 1954 is six seconds slower than the high school record for the mile.

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