Sir Roger Bannister, the first man to run a sub-four minute mile, has died at the age of 88.
To Cram and Coe, the man who now runs the sport as the IAAF president, Bannister's run of three minutes 59.4 seconds in Oxford was the nearly mythical tale which underpinned their own youthful athletics days.
According to a statement from his family, he died peacefully on Saturday in Oxford, England.
Prime Minister Theresa May tweeted: "Sir Roger Bannister was a great British sporting icon whose achievements were an inspiration to us all".
"He will be greatly missed", she wrote on Twitter.
He entered the 1952 Olympic Games in Helsinki as the United Kingdom record-holder in the mile, finishing a disappointing fourth in the 1,500-meter run.
After Bannister crossed the finish line, the announcer read out the time: "3".
Later in 1954, Bannister won the 1,500 meters at the European Championships in Bern, Switzerland, in a games record of 3:43.8.
"None of my athletics was the greatest achievement", he once said.
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"He was an inspiration to those like me who sought to combine university with global sport".
The Vice-Chancellor, Professor Louise Richardson added: "Roger Bannister epitomised what it means to be a living legend".
Roger Bannister about to cross the tape at the end of his record-breaking mile run at Iffley Road, Oxford.
"That to me is a greater source of satisfaction than happening to move my body at a certain speed for a few moments in 1954", he said in a 2012 interview with the New York Times.
After retiring from competitive racing, Bannister spent two decades as a neurologist in private practice, then turned full-time to research, specializing in autonomic failure - illness characterized by the failure of the central nervous system to respond automatically to stimuli.
"He was running on cinder tracks, not tarmac tracks", he said. As chairman of the Sports Council between 1971 and 1974, he developed the first test for anabolic steroids. "Those are real achievements".
Coe ran a mile in a world record 3 minutes, 47.33 seconds in 1981 between winning gold medals in the 1,500 meters at the 1980 and 1984 Olympics. Bannister was knighted in 1975, and served as the Master of Pembroke College at Oxford University from 1985 until 1993.
In 1955, he married Moyra Jacobsson, an artist.
Bannister outlived his 4-minute mile pacemakers: Brasher, who founded the London Marathon, died in 2003 at the age of 74.