Shoes worn to make history
A pair of English black leather running shoes, 1954. 10 1/2 in. (26.5 cm.) long. 4 1/2 oz. Together with an accompanying letter of provenance signed by Sir Roger Bannister and a letter written by Eustace Thomas to Sir Roger prior the race denoting ‘the lightness’ of the shoes made by Law and Son. Estimate: £30,000-50,000 ($47,000-78,000). This lot and those below will be offered in our sale, Out of the Ordinary on 10 September at Christie’s in London
This pair of English black leather, six-spike running shoes by G.T. Law of Wimbledon Park was worn by Sir Roger Bannister when he broke the record for the four-minute mile in 3 min 59.4 seconds on 6 May 1954 during a meet between the British AAA (Amateur Athletics Association) and Oxford University at the Iffley Road Track in Oxford.
Bannister began the day of his historic race at the hospital where he worked as a junior doctor in London. It was in the laboratory there that he sharpened his racing spikes and rubbed graphite on them so they would not pick up too much cinder ash. He took the train from Paddington Station to Oxford, nervous about the poor windy conditions that afternoon.
Six men ran the Mile: Alan Gordon and George Dole from Oxford University and four British AAA runners — Bannister, his two pacemakers Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway and Tom Hulatt.
The race began at 6pm and immediately Bannister and future Olympic gold medalist Chris Brasher took the lead with Brasher leading both the first lap in 58 seconds and the half-mile in 1:58, with Bannister behind, and Chataway behind Bannister.
Chataway moved to the front after the second lap and continued to lead around the front turn until with a Herculean surge Bannister accelerated forward to take the lead with just 275 metres to go. The sheer exertion of this resulted in Bannister passing out after he crossed the finish line.
The consequent announcement was drowned out by the roar of the crowd at the point: ‘The time was three.’ His actual time was 3 minutes 59.4 seconds.
The shoes Bannister wore weighed four and a half ounces, much lighter than any existing shoes. ‘The leather is extremely thin and the spikes are unusually thin, as I used a grindstone to make them even thinner,’ says Bannister. ‘These shoes are the last tangible link I have with the four-minute mile.’
We understand that Sir Roger Bannister will be donating some of the proceeds of sale to the Autonomic Charitable Trust (ACT), a charity which raises money specifically for medical research into autonomic conditions, and some other good causes in which Sir Roger has specific interests.
A rare race meet programme from the Iffley Road Athletic Ground, 1954
Dated 6th May 1954, and published By Oxonian Press, Oxford, the programme includes pencil-annotated notes for each race, including the historic and record-breaking sub-four minute mile won by Sir Roger Bannister. Provenance: From a spectator of the race that day, hence by descent.
A rare race meet programme from the Iffley Road Athletic Ground, 1954. Dated 6th May, 1954. Estimate: £800-1,200 ($1,300-1,900)
Punched (repeatedly) by Muhammad Ali
An Everlast black leather punching bag, Signed by Muhammad Ali circa 1980. 13 1/2 in. (34 cm.) high; 9 in. (23 cm.) diameter. Estimate: £4,000-6,000 ($6,300-9,400)
From Muhammad Ali’s training camp at Deer Lake, Pennsylvania, this punching bag is signed and dated ‘Muhammad Ali ‘80’ and stamped Everlast ‘4203’, and is accompanied by a letter of opinion from Craig Hamilton who purchased the speedball from the noted Ali collector Peter Morovkin, also a facsimile copy of a letter of authenticity from Morovkin. Alin was in training for the penultimate fight of his career, against the then unbeaten Larry Holmes, in which he retired after 10 of 15 scheduled rounds.
Punched (repeatedly) by mere mortals
A brass-mounted oak ‘Test your strength’ punch bag machine, circa 1930s. By Ahrens. In an oak case with overhead gallery with suspended leather punch bag, on a metal foot marked Shefras, London 78 3/4 in. (200 cm.) high; 30 1/4 in. (70 in. ) wide. Estimate: £5,000-8,000 ($7.900-13,000)
Coin-operated strength testers first appeared with Robert William Page’s patent of 1885. By measuring a force applied to a spring or counter-weight, they were in principle similar to weighing scales, although not required to be as accurate. They came in many shapes and sizes, and were very popular in the hard living, working class culture of the industrial age. An alternative to arm wrestling, they could be used to settle wagers or impress the opposite sex with demonstrations of physical prowess.
The spoils of an Olympic champion
An Olympic bronze model entitled ‘The Victorious Athlete’, 1920. By Leandre Grandmoulin, presented to the winners at 1920 Antwerp Olympic Games. With cast signature, date and title ‘VICTOIRE!’, on a Marmo Giallo waisted plinth base. 13 3/4 in. (35 cm.) high. Estimate: £1,000-1,500 ($1,600-2,300)
Besides the vermeil winner’s medal, the victor of the individual events received this bronze model ‘The Victorious Athlete’. The design was put in hand by the Organising Committee at the International Olympic Committee, and the cast was destroyed to prevent further reproductions.
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