Not being upset by problems before competition. This was one area in which Banister’s approach was less than ideal, and in which he required guidance from others.
For on the day Bannister set the 4-minute mile, the wind only abated almost the moment Bannister stepped onto the track. Stampfl (Lenton, 1983a, 1983b) recalls that this upset Bannister, who was “in a blue mood.” Only constant persuasion from Chataway and Brasher finally enticed Bannister to the start. Stampfl was convinced that Bannister must run and that if he missed that opportunity, there would not be another.
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I knew a bit of rain or wind would make no bloody difference because he was capable of a 3:56 or 3:57 mile. So maybe he’ll run a little slower but he would still break four minutes. If he doesn’t do it today he’ll never do it because how is he going to build up again? When will there be another occasion? What about coping with this kind of mental pressure? How do you know the weather will be better at some future date? For all these reasons Bannister, in my opinion, would never have done it again. (Lenton, 1983a, p. 30)
But Bannister did, in the end, make the right decision. He overcame a potential inability to cope with an unexpected problem.
The ability to regain composure before competition. Bannister appears to have been well composed before most of his races, although his confidence threatened to desert him on occasion, especially before the Iffley Road mile. Yet in the end, he also overcame these barriers.
The ability to calm down before competition. In the hours before setting the 4-minute mile, Bannister “forgot some of my apprehensions” by staying with his friends, the Wendens, at their house, which ha*d “become a second home” for him during his studies at Oxford. ‘ ‘The calm efficiency of Eileen had often helped to still my own restless worries. Never was this factor so important as on this day” (Bannister, 1955, p. 189).
Before his victories at the Empire and European Games, Bannister went for long walks “seeking the mental calm I needed” (Bannister, 1955, p. 17).
The ability to regain confidence before competition. In the hours before both the Iffley Road race and his race with Landy, Bannister suffered a loss of confidence, as previously described. Yet he recovered his composure on both occasions.