The Perfect Mile Book Review

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A historic milestone was reached between the times when two Swedes (Gunder Hägg and Arne Andersson) kept renewing each other’s Mile world records and when the British dominated the Mile world records and races. 4-minute Mile was getting ever so close to conquer, but the barrier was so monumental that Hägg’s world record of 4:01.04 had not been broken for nine years, which is the longest gap between any two world records to-date since IAAF era started. Neal Bascomb’s The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It took me back to the exciting time: The early 1950s, when many industrialized countries were starting to experience post-war modernism, though sports science and technologies were still in its infant stage.

Roger Bannister from the Great Britain, John Landy of Australia, and Wes Santee of the United States were the selected milers to take on this enormous challenge and the candidates to break the 4-minute barrier. Bascome introduced me to each miler in great detail, whom I had never heard of. Though I admire his talent and dedication of Bannister, I was hoping Landy would be the one to break the 4-minute barrier, because he was the front runner and the one who did not have the luxury of training in facilities or environments (physical and athletic) that both Bannister and Santee had. Landy did break Bannister’s 3:59.4 and set the world record of 3:58 a month and a half later. He was a little late to be the first miler to break the barrier. Landy seems to resemble Sebastian Coe’s running style, while Bannister is more like Steve Ovett, from what I read.

One thing I am surprised about these athletes is that all three dropped the competitive running to pursue their interests and passions soon after the barrier was broken. It seems to me it is such a waste of athletic talents; who knows they could have been much more celebrated athletes if they continued their racing. Today, the Mile record of 3:43.13 is held by Hicham El Guerrouj of Morocco, which was established in July, 1999 in Rome.

[schema type=”book” url=”” name=”The Perfect Mile” author=”Neal Bascomb” publisher=”Mariner Books” pubdate=”2005-04-06″ isbn=”978-0618562091″ ]

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