The Running Shoes That Are No Oil Painting

In Art versus Sporting History the winner may not be a pretty picture.


Roger Bannister's Running Spikes For Sale at Auction
As seen in The Telegraph newspaper
 A couple of weeks ago a Picasso painting sold at auction for a record amount of money. To be exact it sold for £115 million. When I heard the news I remember being very surprised thinking that it was a lot of money to pay for something that would hang on a wall and only a select few would ever get to see it close up. But then, it’s not my money so it doesn’t matter too much does it?

Then I saw an article in the paper. It was given a tiny corner of the page and I almost skipped past it. The delicate and very flat running spikes in the photo were to be sold at auction, this is of special note because of their history. In 1954 these shoes ran a mile faster than any other shoes had ever done before. They broke the, until then, elusive 4 minute mile barrier and crossed the finish line in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. That’s some going for a couple of pieces of spikey leather.

The man wearing them at the time was Sir Roger Banister and his decision to sell them will help to raise a price of £50,000 or so it is expected which will be donated to charity by Bannister. 

It was this that made me think – a dangerous pass time for me – what is most important to us as a society? A painting by a famous artist or some shoes belonging to a fella who could get a shift on?  No matter what you think of the painting and no matter whether you appreciate the style of running shoe they are both important, no doubt. 

As a biased, wannabe athlete, I can’t get something out of my mind. Until Sir Roger (just ‘Roger’ back then) broke the 4 minute mile threshold very few people believed it could ever be done and so this was a major breakthrough. It wasn’t just a huge discovery for running though, it opened up the realms of possibility in many ways. What was the human mind and body capable of? How far can it go, how fast and for how long. How much is physical and how much is mental endurance. This man was a SuperHero of his time. 

Roger bannister didn’t have a canvas, he didn’t have a brush and palette and his work can’t be hung anywhere to look at. But what he achieved is something we can all be in awe of. We don’t have to go to travel to a museum or art gallery or have wealthy friends in high places. We just need to know that one day a young man decided that he was going to run a mile faster than anyone had ever done before. He did it and what that proved is that we are all capable of achieving extraordinary things if we want them and work hard enough to earn them. And that these shoes may only realise £50,000 compared to the multi millions for a painting means that a lot of people with a lot of money are rather missing the point. 

What do you think? 

If this has whetted your appetite for extraordinary achievements you may like to read a previous post about The UK’s 6 Most Adventurous People

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