Roger and Me

No, nothing to do with that flick by Michael Moore (who probably couldn't even walk a mile!). I've been on a bit of a Roger Bannister kick lately after recently reading two books about him. "The Perfect Mile" by Neal Bascomb documents the pursuit of the first 4:00 mile by Bannister, Australian John Landy, and American Wes Santee. Bannister, of course, hit the mark first, but then lost his record to Landy, but came back later in the year to defeat Landy in an epic race at the Empire Games, the first time that more than one runner broke the once unthinkable barrier in the same race. Bascomb's book is a great read, which would definitely appeal to history buffs as well as running fans.

I also just read Bannister's autobiography, "The Four-Minute Mile" (the original title was "The First Four Minutes"), which was first published in 1955, the year after his record breaking exploits. I have the fiftieth-anniversary edition, which includes a new introduction by Sir Roger as well as various other articles he wrote. This book is probably the best book I have read on running. It is an amazing account of post-war life in England and what it was like to be an athlete as well as a medical student in those times and how Bannister managed to train with such a busy schedule. Despite not running nearly as much as elite runners do today, Bannister was genius in his ability to make the most out of his time and employ a scientific, quality over quantity schedule that worked for him. A true Renaissance man, Bannister frowned upon the growing 'professionalism' that was creeping into the sport in the 1950s. He has much more to say about that in his 2004 essay "After The Four Minute Mile," which is included at the end of the book.

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