Bath minister was part of historical race 60 years ago | News

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Bath minister was part of historical race 60 years ago

BATH, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- Sixty years ago on this date -- May 6, 1954 – a young man from Maine became part of sports history.

That was the day in England when Roger Bannister became the first racer to run a mile in less than four minutes. The four-minute mile had been one of those seemingly impossible barriers in sports for a number of years, until Bannister broke it by just six-tenths of a second.

Running the race with him was George Dole, from Bath. Dole had started running as a student at Morse High School, then was on the Yale University track team. He was a graduate student at Oxford University in England, and a member of that school's track team at the time of the record-setting race.

Dole told NEWS CENTER there was great anticipation of breaking the four minute mile, as well as some doubt it would ever happen. He says that day's race was between Oxford and the Britain AAU, and that Bannister and two other runners entered with the goal of beating the four minute mark.

Dole says he was in third place after the first lap, and still close to the front. That's when Bannister and his colleagues began to stretch out their lead. Dole had run 4:10 before, but on that day he started too fast, and ended up in 5th place at 4:25.

But he says as the race went on, he became more of a spectator, trying to watch was happening in front. Dole says he still remembers the announcer giving the time for the race, and when he started saying the time as "three minutes..." , Dole says people started cheering so loudly they couldn't hear the rest of the number.

It was a milestone moment in sports, although Bannister's record would be broken by an Australian runner a month and a half later.

Dole says the race is "a nice memory", but less important than the rest of his life. Dole went on to become the Reverend Doctor George Dole, earn a Ph.D. from Harvard and have a career as a highly respected theologian. (His sermons and articles can be found on the Internet.) He returned to Bath in 1999 to become pastor of a church. Dole says he still runs regularly at age 82, and says a few people know about his role in sports history but many do not.

A church in Fryeburg, where Dole was born, will host a three mile race in August to honor Rev. Dole's participation in the world record event sixty years ago. The "Dole 3 Miler" will be August 9.


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