for the love
On May 6, 1954 during a dual meet held at Oxford University, Englishman Roger Bannister became the first person to run a sub-4:00 mile – a feat most experts regarded as physically impossible.
Among the five men who lined up alongside Bannister on that historic spring day was one American, George Dole, a Rhodes Scholar finalist who’d run for Yale as an undergrad. He had a front row seat to the most important achievement in our sport.
We first met George one year ago while writing a profile for Meter Magazine, and during that period he lent us the shorts he actually wore in the race. Those shorts combined with his story and perspective on the first sub-4:00 mile inspired the George Dole Editions you see below.
For 40 years after the race, Dole believed he’d finished last on that day, running a 4:25. Indeed, he bore the distinction with good humor – “The Last of the First” he would say when recounting the story. It wasn’t until he returned to Oxford for a reunion in 1994 that he realized he’d actually placed 5th beating out Chris Brasher, who Dole simply didn’t remember passing.
It might seem like an important detail to have overlooked for so long, but such was the nature of May 6, 1954 in the grand scheme of George Dole’s long, rich life. Because while he and the others who ran with Bannister that day were relegated to the footnotes of running history, it’s important to remember that George Dole was never attending Oxford to run. There were no scholarship dollars at stake, no professional aspirations, no obligation beyond the love of athletics and the camaraderie of the team.
When the meet was over, and his teammates went to London to celebrate Bannister’s achievement, George Dole returned to his apartment to study. He had exams, after all.
Looking back, 61 years later, George Dole offers wise perspective on his participation in the Bannister Mile. “I’m glad I was there, and I wish I had done a little better, but I am the only person in the world to whom that matters. And it doesn’t matter tremendously anymore.”
Inspired by the spirit of amateur athletics his story exemplifies, we created the George Dole Short, Tech Tee and Singlet, based on his favorite kit from his Oxford days.