Four-minute mile pacemaker Sir Christopher Chataway dies aged 82

Chris Chataway, centre, acts as pacemaker for Roger Bannister’s successful bid to beat the four-minute mile barrier at Iffley Road, Oxford, in 1954. At other times Chris and Roger strutted their stuff on the dance floor

Sir Roger Bannister (left) with his two pace men, Chris Chataway (centre) and Chris Brasher holding up a photograph of Bannister breaking the four-minute mile in 1994

First published in News Oxford Mail: Photograph of the Author by , Council Reporter, also covering Oxford city centre. Call me on 01865 425429

A former 5,000 metres world record-holder, who acted as a pacemaker to help Sir Roger Bannister become the first man to break the four-minute mile barrier in 1954, has died aged 82.

Sir Christopher Chataway died at around 7am on Sunday at St John's Hospice in north west London, having suffered from cancer for two and a half years, his son Mark Chataway said.

Mr Bannister: "He was gallant to the end. Our friendship dated back over more than half a century.

"We laughed, ran and commiserated together. People will always remember him for the great runner he was, but it shouldn't be forgotten that he had an extremely distinguished career off the track.

"My family and I will miss him sorely and our thoughts go out to his family and many friends who were so fond of him."

Chataway was one of the pacemakers, along with Chris Brasher, who helped Sir Roger Bannister become the first person to break the four-minute mile at the Iffley Road track, a mark which had remained elusive for so long.

He gained the recognition for himself later that year, though, when, two weeks after taking 5,000 metres silver behind Vladimir Kuts at the European Championships in Berne, he beat the Russian on the way to breaking the world record for the distance.

Chataway clocked 13 minutes 51.6 seconds at a televised race at White City, edging out his rival by 0.1secs. Kuts reclaimed the record shortly after.

Having also won the Commonwealth title over three miles in 1954, Chataway became the first BBC Sports Personality of the Year, with Bannister in second place.

He retired from international athletics after the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, where he finished 11th in the 5,000m.

Born in Chelsea on January 31, 1931, Chataway was educated at Sherborne School in Dorset and Magdalen College, Oxford, where he gained a degree in politics, philosophy and economics.
After National Service, he became the first newsreader on Independent Television in 1955 before moving to the BBC.

He was soon drawn into politics, though.

He served as a Conservative MP between 1959 and 1966, including time as a Parliamentary Private Secretary and then as a junior Education Minister.

He was re-elected between 1969 and 1974, serving as Minister for Industrial Development in 1972.

He retired from politics aged 43 in 1974 and moved into business, becoming managing director of Orion Bank between 1974 and 1988 and then chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority.
He was knighted in 1995.

And he was still running more than half a century after that famous race at Iffley Road, 52 years later completing the Great North Run in 1:38.50 at the age of 75.

He is survived by his sons Mark, Matthew, Adam, Charles, Ben, his daughter Joanna, his wife Carola and his former wife Anna.

Send us your news, pictures and videos

Most read stories

Local Info

Enter your postcode, town or place name

About cookies

We want you to enjoy your visit to our website. That's why we use cookies to enhance your experience. By staying on our website you agree to our use of cookies. Find out more about the cookies we use.

I agree