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PASSINGS: Christopher Chataway

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Christopher Chataway

British track star helped break 4-minute mile

Christopher Chataway, 82, a British track star and world record-holder who helped Roger Bannister break the four-minute mile, died of cancer Sunday in London, his son Mark said.

Chataway, who later became a newscaster and then a British cabinet minister, was one of two runners who trained for months with Bannister, a 25-year-old British medical student, as he prepared to make his bid to run the fastest mile then ever recorded.

On May 6, 1954, Chataway and Chris Brasher showed up with Bannister at a track competition near Oxford University. Brasher set the pace for two laps and then Chataway took over, slowing 250 yards before the finish line as Bannister flew by.

Coming in at six-tenths of a second under four minutes, Bannister held the record for 46 days. On June 21, 1954, John Landy ran a mile in Turku, Finland, that was a second-and-a-half faster. Again, Chataway set the pace.

Chataway retired from international competition after the 1956 Olympics in Melbourne, Australia.

He started as a newscaster at Independent Television News in London in 1955, served in the House of Commons and was chairman of the United Kingdom's Civil Aviation Authority. He was knighted in 1995 for his service to aviation.

Born in London Jan. 31, 1931, Chataway was partly raised in the Sudan, where his father was a British government official. He took up running as a student at Oxford in 1950. After he broke the world 5,000-meter record in October 1954, "his Russian rivals were surprised to see him lighting a large cigar at the reception," the Guardian, a British newspaper, noted.

Despite a fondness for claret and a long smoking habit, Chataway stayed in shape. When he was 75, he ran a half-marathon — 13.1 miles — in one hour, 38 minutes and 50 seconds.

"I sometimes think that running, which was a sort of tormentor in my youth, has returned to be a friendly codger in my old age," he told an interviewer.

Times staff and wire reports

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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