Tuesday, July 22, 2008

The Perfect Mile

Knowing that I am training for a sub-5-minute mile, Nitmos recommended that I read The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb. I picked it up at the library last Friday, and devoured it. I loved it so much, I had to write about it. Don't worry, no spoilers.

The book details the history of three remarkable runners, all with the same goal of being the first to break the 4-minute barrier for the mile. The American Wes Santee, the Australian John Landy, and the Englishman Roger Bannister all set out to reach this goal that many believed impossible.

The story begins with the athletes qualifying for the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Finland. Each athlete faced challenges and struggles at and prior to the Games, which in turn prompted their decision to be the first to break the barrier. Over the course of the next two years, each would train relentlessly and make several attempts at breaking the barrier. But only one could be the first. And that long-anticipated day finally came in the spring of 1954.

As I am training for a similar barrier, I was intrigued and the descriptions of their training. Santee trained with his University of Kansas track team, Landy trained through the night in Australia, and Bannister juggled his training with medical school. Each showed great promise and repeatedly demonstrated that they had the potential to reach their goal. Reading about how they trained and broke through mental barriers en route to the time barrier gave me new ideas for my own training.

This book gripped me for many reasons. 1) I ran track in high school, and I can remember very well the anticipation and adrenaline of my races. I was able to put myself on the track beside them and re-experience that rush of adrenaline with each athlete's races, aided by the eloquent writing of the author. 2) I am training for my own mile race next month. These stories will stick with me and run through my mind as I train for and run that race. 3) I am currently striving to break my own barrier of 5 minutes. Although I would only be about 3 quarters of the way through the mile by the time they finished, I feel like I can relate to their experiences and attempts. I understand how it feels to have setbacks, and I know the excitement that comes with progress. I hope I can experience the elation of breaking my barrier as well.


Shilingi-Moja said...

I had the same adrenaline rush and feeling like I was right there on the track, in the race when I recently read Once a Runner. It was so real that it was truly bizarre.

Keep pushing for that sub-5:00.

Amanda said...

Wow, I am coming back from an injury so I'm feeling a bit slow...but now I feel really slow! That being said, I think this book sounds great and is probably motivation for a lot of us, I'll have to check it out.

Marcy said...

Ahhhhhh from looking on the right, a very nice progression downward. Only a matter of time ;-)

Nitmos said...

That was a phenomenal book. Glad you enjoyed it.

I was amused by the folks who tried to tell these runners that a 4 minute mile simply wasn't possible and their heart may explode at the finish. In hindsight, pretty ridiculous.

Nitmos said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Shilingi-Moja said...

Have you seen the update on Move a Million Miles for Ryan Hall? It's up to 747,301 miles leaving each participant to average 3 miles per day between now and 8-Aug. Not bad.

Xenia said...

That book sounds great. I'll definitely have to pick it up.

Good luck achieving your goal. It's just a matter of time as I can see from your progress. :)