The Perfect Mile

Genre: Nonfiction; Author: Neal Bascomb

If the word Fartlek sends you into fits of giggles, this is not the book for you. The Perfect Mile was a four-minute mile – the time three world-class runners were chasing back in 1952: British med student Roger Bannister; Aussie John Landy, a former footballer with an avid interest in butterflies; and University of Kansas student Wes Santee. Even if you know the outcome, Bascomb’s re-creation of events is captivating. Each attempt at the sub-four is more emotional than the last. Every 4:02 – or, worse, 4:00.6 – wounds. And though the record may be a distant memory (in 1999, Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj ran 3:43.13), there’s much joy and inspiration to be found here.

Originally posted April 16 2004 — 12:00 AM EDT

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