American journalist Bascomb tells how beginning in 1952, three young menAustralian, American, and Britishrivaled to be the first to run a mile in less than four minutes. Roger Bannister did it in 1954, but it turned out that instead of breaking the barrier, they only pushed it back to the newest shorter time and the races continued. Annotation ©2004 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR
On May 6, 1954, Roger Bannister, a British medical student who squeezed in track workouts between hospital rounds, became the first man to run a mile in less than four minutes. It was a feat that had widely been thought impossible, but within seven weeks an even faster time was posted by the Australian John Landy, setting up a showdown later that year in a race that was billed as the “Mile of the Century.” In masterly fashion, Bascomb re-creates the battle of the milers, embellishing his account with fascinating forays into runner’s lore. (In the seventeenth century, athletes had their spleens excised to boost speed; in the nineteenth, they were advised to rest in bed at noon naked.) It’s a mark of Bascomb’s skill that, although the outcome of the race is well known, he keeps us in suspense, rendering in graphic detail the runners’ agony down the final stretch.