About 58 years ago, on May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister of England broke the four-minute barrier for a Mile race for the first time in history. I read The Perfect Mile that detailed how the stage for this athletics breakthrough was set up among Bannister, John Landy of Australia and Wes Santee of the United States. In his memoir, The Fout-Minute Mile, Roger Bannister himself tells how such great milestone was achieved. This is not his training log or a ‘how to run a strong Mile race’ text book. In fact, he does not say much about his training in the book, other than he never spent more than half an hour a day in training. This is a book where, I believe, he attempted to answer why he ran.
Bannister wrote this book in 1955, one year after he ran 3:59.4. He was a medical student at Oxford during most of his running career, and he is also a very good writer. A little on the dry side but eloquent, scholastic, and philosophical at times.
Needless to say, the best and the most electrifying part of this book is when he tells the story of May 6 and the race. But a few sentences in Conclusion stick with me, and I quote him here, because it is very good:
We run, not because we think it is doing us good, but because we enjoy it and cannot help ourselves. It also does us good because it helps us to do other things better. It gives a man or woman the chance to bring out power that might otherwise remain locked away inside. The urge to struggle lies latent in everyone.
Now, I am not a medical student or a doctor, but I’d like to think this is true and want to think that running makes one a better person.
Before you go, here is a period footage of Bannister running 3:59.4 on May 6, 1954 at Iffley Road track in Oxford . Enjoy![youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=fvwp&v=yWqwi6FcyH8]