The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less than Four Minutes to Achieve It by Neal Bascomb
Neal Bascomb is a consummate storyteller: he can unravel a tale with an ending you already know, set it at a heart-thumping pace, and never let you rest until you hit that final page. Unless you’ve been in total seclusion your entire life, you probably know that the four-minute mile barrier was broken quite a few decades ago. [I’ll save you a Google search: as of today, the world record of 3:43.13 (OMG!) by Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj remains unchallenged since 1999.]
Just how that four-minute barrier was finally overcome gets breathtaking (bestselling!) treatment from Bascomb on the page; and in case you were wondering, the stuck-in-the-ears version incites even more excitement as read by Nelson Runger, who adds a welcome, old-time sportscaster enthusiasm to his narration. [One of my biggest gripes with audible books has been the laziness of producers with casting/directing for proper pronunciation. Why is basic respect for the author’s words so much to ask for??!! Here’s shocking (pathetic that it is so shocking!) news about thisproduction: Both Bascomb and one of the book’s major subjects get a shout-out of “grateful acknowledgement” for their help in “researching certain pronunciations in this book”!! Really, how hard was that??!!]
But back to the pursuit of perfection … Mile by mile, race by race, Bascomb follows three young athletes around the world as each devotes himself to be the first to achieve the deemed-impossible sub-4:00 goal: British Roger Bannister, an Oxford-educated medical doctor-in-training; Australian John Landy, a Melbourne University track hero; and American Wes Santee, who had to battle his critical father for the chance to run (and be educated!). Their backgrounds are vastly different, their training plans at times antithetical to proven regimens, their lifestyles bear little resemblance to each other … and yet their shared goal never wavers, and ultimately, one man breaks that elusive tape.
I knew how it would end, and yet I often couldn’t pull the earphones off my head: “shhh, he’s on the fourth lap,” I’d admonish the hubby, or “just a sec, he’s about to break another record,” I’d tell a whining child, or “we’ll talk in a minute, they’re gonna announce the official time,” I’d hang up the cell call as it interrupted my iPod function. With Bascomb’s addictive step-by-step retelling, knowing the ending never diminished the wanting to know happened next.
Confession time: I’m not delusional enough to ever think I’ll ever come close to run the perfect mile, but thanks to someone Bascomb and I know in common, I’m out there running a bunch of my own (albeit much slower!) perfect miles – yesterday morning, the exact time I had visualized actually flashed up on the board as I crossed the finish line of a local race. Not that I’m bragging (well … only a little bit), but my miracle-making coach has managed to make me an ultra-athlete (yeah, me!). So here’s the best sneak-peek news for ultra-wannabes: come next spring, the wisdom of that impossible coaching will be available to anyone and everyone when my ultimate ultracoach’s first book hits shelves next spring. Watch this space for details.
Readers: Young Adult, Adult