Add another fine book to the shelf of fitness inspiration: The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb. Since "everybody knows" that Roger Bannister was the first to do it, for drama's sake this book pits him against rivals from Australia (John Landy) and the USA (Wes Santee), both in the race to crack four minutes and in a subsequent major international track meet. It makes for a stirring story, but Bascomb writes so well that any plot device is unnecessary. He pieces together the not-so-simple history of Bannister's achievement through interviews with the men themselves, their friends, and the news reports of the time.

It's magic, like the words that Bascomb reports the track announcer saying early in the evening of 6 May 1954:

"Ladies and gentlemen, here is the result of Event Number Nine, the One Mile: First, number Forty-One, R. G. Bannister, of the Amateur Athletic Association and formerly of Exeter and Merton Colleges, with a time which is a new meeting and track record, and which subject to ratification will be a new English Native, British National, British All-Comers, European, British Empire, and WORLD'S RECORD. The time is THREE . . ."

The rest of the announcement was drowned out by the joyous cries of the 1,200 people who had witnessed history. Banister had run the mile in 3:59.4 — at last the barrier was broken.

(cf. TouchingTheVoid (2 Jun 2004), AndThenTheVultureEatsYou (9 Dec 2004), RunningThroughTheWall (23 Jan 2005), UltramarathonMan (14 Apr 2005), SwimmingToAntarctica (22 Aug 2005), ...)

TopicLiterature - TopicRunning - 2006-06-16

(correlates: PlanWorkLearn, OptimistCreed, SwimmingToAntarctica, ...)