OXFORD has bid farewell to one of its most famous sons with a message to keep striving to achieve the impossible.

In a rare coming together of all tenets of city life, a service in the Sheldonian Theatre yesterday honoured the life of Sir Roger Bannister, the neurologist who ran a four minute mile.

The great and the good gathered to pay their respects to a man who was described as both modest and humble but also someone who excelled at everything he put his mind to.

Oxford Mail:

Speaking to the Oxford Mail after the ceremony, daughter Rev Charlotte Bannister-Parker said the family had been overwhelmed with the huge outpouring of support shown by residents after the death of Sir Roger in March, aged 88.

She said: "We are so grateful that he has been remembered for all aspects of his life.

"This service recognised not just what he achieved in running but for his medical endeavours and his deep love of this city.

"His time as a student, at Iffley Road, as a master of a college and in his retirement - it all meant so much to him and he always made it his mission to continue to support Oxford.

"What really surprised us was that people from all over the world have wanted to hear about his life.

"We want to say thank you to everyone for all the love and support and I hope his legacy inspires people to keep trying to do the impossible.

"Let's keep stretching ourselves and be exceptional in our chosen fields."

Oxford Mail:

OBITUARY: The extraordinary life of Sir Roger Bannister

Guests gave Sir Roger's wife of 62 years, Lady Moyra Bannister, a standing ovation as she closed proceedings with a moving speech, supported on stage by her son Clive.

She spoke of her husband's courage, adding that he could be fearless 'almost to the point of recklessness' as he threw himself into outdoor pursuits.

She added: "Even when he was at his most exasperating, you could not help but love him.

"He approached every facet of life with gusto and he imparted his love of life and the values he held to his family.

"His ethos was to find out what you are good at and give it your all, this is course he took.

"My own pleasure and satisfaction has been in following this course with him."

After studying medicine at Exeter College, Sir Roger ran the 'miracle mile' at the Iffley Road track on May, 6, 1954, described as one of the greatest feats ever seen in athletics.

He returned to the city in 1985 to teach at Pembroke College and stayed until his death.

The city has given him some of its greatest honours, including an Oxford Freedom of the City award, and there are plans to re-name St Clement's ward after him as part of new boundary changes.

Calls are growing to return a life-size bronze statue of the man, currently on loan in Croydon, to be installed at Iffley Road to memorialise his feat.

Oxford Mail:

Runner Steve Cram, who himself has run a mile in three minutes, 46 seconds, becoming part of a still select group to follow in Sir Roger's footsteps, told the crowd how he had been inspired by the runner from an early age.

He said: "It is rare to make such an impact in four minutes and rarer still for one act to have such a resonance.

"It went viral, to use a modern parlance, and still resonates today, 64 years later.

"There have been other stand-out achievements in sport but I don't think any have resonated as much as with the general public - not only here in Oxford but around the world.

"The world of sport needs its heroes and he will forever be one of its greatest."

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He added that athletes from across the globe, including the current world-record holder for the fastest mile, Hicham El Guerrouj, still hold Sir Roger in high esteem and he hopes that the legacy will continue to inspire aspirational young athletes.