The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, And Less Than Four Minutes To Achieve It

The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, And Less Than Four Minutes To Achieve It

Book Information

Houghton Mifflin Company 2004

In 1934, Glenn Cunningham (American Miler: The Life And Times Of Glenn Cunningham (2006) by Paul J. Kiell), a Kansas State runner with burned and scarred legs, missing toes, and missing heel, lowered the world mile run record to 4:06.8. Four years later he set the indoor mile world record at 4:04.4. His goal was to break the mythical four minute mile barrier. He and his running peers failed. By the end of World War II the time was down to 4:01. Author Neal Bascomb dramatically portrays the world competition of who and when the first sub four minute mile would be run. It eventually came down to three very different milers: the American farm boy Wes Santee running for the University Of Kansas, the Australian Tom Landry, and England's Roger Bannister. The author's narrative involves the reader as if he was in the stadium watching actual races between the three milers. Think of the book's chapters as a four lap race with hurdles and obstacles the runners must overcome. Each runner temporarily surges to the lead for awhile but to only fall back. Every reader can pick and root for a favorite. Will your guy break the finish line tape first or ever? One will run a heartbreaking 4:00.5! Occasionally, students and readers ask what's the point of reading history books since you already know how it ends? Yes, it is an historical fact that Roger Bannister did break the four minute mile in May, 1954. But, nothing happens in a vacuum and history is made by people, fate and individuals or "his or her story". Why Bannister and not Landry or Santee? Was there a level playing field? Victims of circumstances beyond their control? Did Bannister deserve it? My response to readers is that I absolutely agree. If you, the reader, have no curiosity, don't care to learn anything by studying the behavior and mistakes of others, and are void of any emotion or vicariously capable of experiencing drama, suspense, humor, tragedy, pain, suffering, unfairness, & etc., history is not for you. Besides the human drama and the exciting competition of thrill of victory and agony of defeat, the attraction of "sports" books or biographies about star athletes has always been the inspirational factor. They won or got their picture on the Wheaties box through perseverance towards a goal and by overcoming adversity and/or a handicap. Do I, the reader, have the will and fortitude to triumph? Do I have the right stuff? If they can do it, why not me? The point is that just because a library has a strong, high quality "sports" collection doesn't mean the librarian is a jock or catering to just "jock" readers. Good sports books like Butcher's The Perfect Distance: Ovett & Coe (2005), The Greatest: The Haile Gebrselassie Story (2004), and Steve Scott The Miler (1997) are much more than just about winning. If I had to pick one thing or characteristic most failing or low achieving students have in common, it would be a lack of any goal (s). Without being goal orientated, why make the effort? What is the point? As record breaking runner Alberto Salazar reflected on the tragic death of American running star, Steve Prefontaine, "Pre inspired a whole generation of American distance runners to excel. He made running cool. He created the whole idea of training really hard and going for it. Runners setting goals for themselves...that was his example." For the whole story see Pre: The Story Of America's Greatest Running Legend (1977) by Tom Jordan. As a Kansan I'd be amiss if I failed to mention ESPN's greatest high school athlete and the ultimate HS athlete poster boy, Jim Ryun. As a high school junior, he ran a sub four minute mile, broke the American record, and at 19 set the world record with a 351.4 mile. After fifty years his high school record still stands. Did I mention achieving and goal setting? High school readers of The Jim Ryun Story by Cordner Nelson or Quest Of Gold: The Jim Ryun Story still ask whether the books are truth or fiction. Finally, for something unusual and for those who love to run, try Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race The World Has Never Seen (2009) by Christopher Mcdougall. Who knows? Maybe reading one of these books will stimulate some YAs to put down their "I" toys and pick up some running shoes! 322 pages. Recommended by Robert L. Hicks, Arkansas City High School librarian Robert L. Hicks Librarian, Arkansas City, Kansas USA

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