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Roger Bannister’s 4-minute mile running shoes sell for big bucks

A piece of athletics history was snapped up on Thursday, as the running shoes worn by Roger Bannister when he broke the four-minute mile were sold in London by Christie's for a six-figure sum.

After only two-and-half minutes of bidding, the shoes sold at auction to an anonymous telephone buyer for £266,500 ($411,493)—far more than the expected £30,000-£50,000.

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"Since announcing the sale of Sir Roger Bannister's running shoes, we have received a great deal of interest from across the globe," Kate Summers, head of sale for the "Out of the Ordinary" auction, said in a news release on Thursday.

Bannister entered the record books when he ran the mile in just 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds in Oxford, England. The record has since been broken many times, but his ground-breaking run remains etched in sporting memory.

Bannister started his running career as a medical student at the University of Oxford in 1946, just after the end of World War II, and went on to become a distinguished neurologist. The Briton plans to give part of the proceeds from the shoe sale to the Autonomic Charitable Trust, "which encourages the area of neurological research to which I have devoted most of my life."


Norman Potter | Hulton Archive | Getty Images

The shoes were made by GT Law and Son. In May, Bannister told Christie's that, "I could see there was an advantage in having the shoe as light as possible. The leather is extremely thin and the spikes are unusually thin, as I used a grindstone to make them even thinner. These shoes are the last tangible link I have with the four-minute mile."

Christies describe the "Out of the Ordinary" auction – now in its third year – as "celebrating all things extraordinary and unusual."

Regarding the shoes, Summers said: "They are the symbol of not only an historic moment in sporting history, but demonstrate what humans can achieve with determination and persistence."