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The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It Paperback – April 6, 2005
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From The New Yorker
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker
Top Customer Reviews
Roger Bannister is the thinking man's runner, with the classic middle distance athlete's long stride and finishing kick as well as insights into the scientific principles that underlie cardiovascular exertion. These strengths, however, are offset by the demanding medical studies that severely limit his training time and by his tendency to become overwrought before big races.
John Landy is the workhorse of the trio, logging more miles than the others and able to bring a single-minded focus to the task. But he lacks the closing speed and power of the classic milers, forcing him to run the legs out of his competitors from the front.
Wes Santee, the least famous and accomplished of the three, may well be the most talented. Yet the demands of his University of Kansas track schedule, military commitments, and confrontations with track and field's governing body are impediments that prove too difficult to overcome.
For me, the best part of this book was the fact that these three men pursued this historic goal in a noble and dignified fashion that made you really pull for each of them somehow to be the first.Read more ›
The Australian, John Landy, competed by seeing to it that he was the best conditioned athlete on the track. In the early 50s Australia was an athletic backwater. After returning home to Australia from the disappointment of failing to even make the semifinal qualifying heat in the mile at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Landy embarked on a brutal training regimen, inspired by the physical fitness guru and great Czech runner Emil Zatopek who won gold at Helsinki in the 5000 meter, 10,000 meter and marathon events, and who Landy humbly approached as an acolyte near the close of the games.Read more ›
There were two related aspects to change at this time in track and field (and by extension other already professional sports). The more obvious was the glaring contradiction between the old, 100% pure amateur model on the one hand, and the growing business and media phenomenon we know today on the other. This subtext is brought out in the second part of the story, and especially in the sad tale of the straight-talking American, Wes Santee.
But this was also a period of radical change in training methods. Emil Zatopek, the Czech runner who won the 5,000 meter, 10,000 meter, AND marathon runs at the 1952 Olympics, is the key figure at the outset of the book. His successes taught runners like Bannister, Landy, and Santee that more training, and harder training, would yield faster times. The author outlines older ideas of conditioning that look ridiculously precious and half-hearted by modern standards. As a masters athlete I was especially struck by this phase of the story, and the author does a good job of recapping the sorts of training the runners did throughout.
The three are so characteristic of their countries, they could almost be fictional types. American Wes Santee is brash and outspoken. It is he who calls the financial bluff of the Neanderthal-like powers that ruled amateur athletics in his day, and it is he who is most severely victimized in the process. (In a kind of entrapment scenario, he was given extra money by one set of AAU officials, and then banned for life by others.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Neal Bascomb masterfully weaves the biographies of three athletic heroes into a very well-told tale that compels the reader to keep coming back for more. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
Going into this book I knew very little about the four minute mile except that Bannister accomplished it first. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Adam Machanic
I am a runner and I love it. (Though that hasn’t always been the case.) So I was naturally interested in this book since it’s all about runners. Read morePublished 2 months ago by JKLM05
I really enjoyed this story. I live in Ashland Kansas so the story was very interesting to .me. it's an amazing story between 3 truly awesome men.Published 4 months ago by Chris
Neal Bascomb has a great ability to find the most compelling story in historical events and bring it to life via well-drawn characters and excellent pacing. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Amazon Customer
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, I have spontaneously gone out for a run a few times while reading passages. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Velveteen
Great story, fascinating history. I'm newly exploring the world of running, and especially appreciated the detail on how each athlete trained.Published 9 months ago by Anna Soman