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The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It

4.11  ·  Rating Details  ·  5,144 Ratings  ·  405 Reviews
There was a time when running the mile in four minutes was believed to be beyond the limits of human foot speed, and in all of sport it was the elusive holy grail. In 1952, after suffering defeat at the Helsinki Olympics, three world-class runners each set out to break this barrier. Roger Bannister was a young English medical student who epitomized the ideal of the amateur ...more
ebook, 336 pages
Published April 6th 2005 by Mariner Books (first published April 2004)
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Feb 08, 2011 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I started my running career in high school about 2 years after Bannister broke the 4-minute mile. He was, of course, a great inspiration to all us middle-distance runners, but my real hero was Landy. The sportsmanship he demonstrated in the 1500 meters final at the 1956 Australian National Championships when he stopped to help the fallen Ron Clarke was an example I have never forgotten. Then for him to leap back into the race and win decisively after losing several seconds was one of the greates ...more
Brian Sweany
Aug 13, 2012 Brian Sweany rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
As Usain Bolt captivated the world in London just as he had done in Beijing, my mind wandered to some of my favorite Olympic- and running-themed books. It is a genre that takes up nearly an entire shelf in my library and is perfectly book-ended by David Halberstam's AMATEURS and Christopher McDougal's BORN TO RUN. But one of the most underrated books on this shelf has to be Neil Bascomb's THE PERFECT MILE. Written before THE NEW COOL put Bascomb on the map, this book is to running what Laura Hil ...more
Sep 29, 2012 Heather rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
(At the end I'll give a list of places to go for race footage and other info relating to the subject for those who have already read the book and are interested in knowing more) I have no interest in sports, and of all the sports, I would vote for running as the least interesting, but I absolutely LOVED this book. The author does a wonderful job of building suspense even if normally it is something you couldn't care less about. How many times I have been on the edge of my seat waiting to hear wh ...more
Feb 25, 2008 Judy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The subtitle of this book is "Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It." This is the story of the race to break the four-minute mile barrier in 1954, but also the story of the three men who were all poised to do it first: Englishman Roger Bannister, Australian John Landy, and American Wes Santee. My husband and son (who was a miler himself in high school) would probably give this book a 5. We found ourselves groaning and cheering in the car as we listened to the audiobo ...more
Feb 07, 2011 Pjackson rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
What a delightful read. This book has it all--drama, action, suspense. One can not help but be inspired by the story of Bannister, Santee, and Landy as they struggle to acheive the first sub-4 minute mile. Bannister's story is perhaps the most engaging of all, as he achieved the distinction of breaking the mark first, while he was going to medical school and pursuing a life outside of athletics. In an age when records are regularly broken by professional atheletes who train hours a day and frequ ...more
Nov 22, 2008 David rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a well-researched account of the dramatic race to be the first man to run a mile in less than 4 minutes - a barrier once thought to be unbreakable. The author has created a very readable story, reconstructing conversations and documenting the feelings and emotions of those involved. The three main competitors - Roger Bannister of the UK, Landy of Australia, and Santee of the US - are all included in great detail. The book rambles a bit and occasionally uses pretty unimaginative prose. Bu ...more
May 23, 2011 Bridget rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
Oh my holy fudge, I LOVED this book. I savored every page and looked forward to reading it at every opportunity. At the same time, this wasn't one of those books where I could toss off a few pages while cooking dinner. I had to make sure I could really give myself to the reading of it, so I often had to wait until all other obligations were taken care of (see also: why it took me more than two weeks to get through it).

That said, there is a litmus test for predicting one's potential interest in T
Russell Atkinson
A friend loaned me this book since he knew I was a runner. I've never been a competitive runner, and never on a track team, so I was never in the kind of world depicted in this book. This is, of course, non-fiction, which means you have to either be into biographies, or running, or at least have a healthy curiosity about it for the book to be interesting to you. Despite the specialized target audience, the author managed to bring real drama into the book. The lives of the three featured runners ...more
Aug 16, 2009 Nat rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I found this quite by chance at the library, as I was looking for new fodder on running and triathlon. Wow. I'd probably rate this my favourite book of 2009 to date. I read it during a cottage / training getaway, which turned out to be very fitting.

One review compared the book a bit to Seabiscuit, and it very much had that feel. As in the '30s horse racing captivated all of America, in the '50s middle-distance running was all the rage in many parts of the world. This is the backdrop for this bo
Sam Beasley
Sep 29, 2009 Sam Beasley rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was probablly the best book I have ever read. It was very compelling and just amazing. It is about three men, Roger Bannister, John Landy, and Wes Santee, who are trying to become the first men to run a mile in under four minutes. The story goes through each of their training and determination. This book was especially interesting to me because I am a runner and it taught me about what it like to have all this glory and how hard you have to work. Towards the end of the book, one runner ...more
Mar 08, 2009 Mike rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: athletic
This book is what the ESPN movie "4 Minutes" should have been. Instead of focusing solely on Bannister and his juggling of running, medical studies, and a girlfriend who, frankly, I could care less about, it should have included the other two contenders for the auspicious title. This would have given the story that 'race against the clock' feeling and would I believe, more adequately convey the urgency in completing the task. Though I was recovering from the '07 Boston marathon while I watched t ...more

I'm a running geek and a writer and I loved THE PERFECT MILE. I listened to it on CD.

It's the story of three athletes, Roger Bannister from England, John Landy from Australia, and Wes Santee from Kansas, USA, each of whom wanted to be the first to break the four-minute mile barrier, a feat many thought beyond the capability of any man. Author Neal Bascomb weaved the three men's backgrounds and race histories into a tale with enough tension to keep me listening despite the fact that I knew many o

David Taitelbaum
If you enjoy reading about running then this book is one you are likely to enjoy. Neal Bascomb recounts the story of three men vying to become the first person to run a sub four minute mile. Anyone familiar with running knows Roger Bannister was the first man to break this mark (not much of a spoiler as that's him on the cover setting the record); even with that being the case this book is still somewhat suspenseful as you follow each man in his attempts to get below the four minute mark.

Being a
Jul 08, 2013 Tung rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Disclaimer: I run three times a week, and have been running for years. At the same time, I absolutely detest almost every single minute of running. I run for self-discipline and health reasons, but hate the physical exertion and the sweating. That’s kind of a mixed disclaimer, but whatever. Whether you are a serious runner, a recreational runner, or a non-runner, I think you will find The Perfect Mile to be a great nonfiction read. The book describes the pursuit of the four-minute mile in the mi ...more
Aleisha Z Coleman
Jul 22, 2011 Aleisha Z Coleman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone!
Holy Crap! you ALL need to read this book, TODAY! i don't even like running...i often say...if a bear isn't chasing you, why run? nevertheless, this book ROCKS! i wasn't sure who actually broke the 4 minute mile record for the first time so the first half of the book read like a suspense/mystery. neal bascomb does a superb job of intertwining two time frames, the past in a somewhat linear fashion and yet referencing the end knowledge/future that we know. i am particularly inspired by one of the ...more
Oct 23, 2010 Ob-jonny rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The amazing story of the first sub 4-minute mile runners. They accomplished amazing things while still being true amateurs while working or going to school 12 hours a day. They would run in the middle of the night in order to find time to train. It also shows how cruel the amateur associations were to athletes and how they were exploited by being paid nothing while the bureaucrats were getting rich off their races.

Here is the actual video of their final race together:
Dan Herman
Mar 26, 2016 Dan Herman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When I say I'm a couch potato, I mean it in the sense that you might describe someone as a "confirmed bachelor": Is, was and always will be, by willful unceasing choice. So I can see you looking askance at my picking up a book about the men who were vying to run the first sub-4-minute mile. To which I say, I also read a book about a bunch of nerds running a student newspaper, and oh wait where was I going with this?

Anyway, Neal Bascomb writes one hell of a thriller. All around the same time, thr
Connie Ciampanelli
One of the Guidance Counselors with whom I work was a high school and college track team member years ago, then became a high school track coach and was an avid runner until injuries prevented him from continuing the sport he loves so much. He and I talk running nearly every day.

Ed loaned me his book "The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less than Four Minutes to Achieve It," by Neal Bascomb.

Roger Bannister of England was one of three men, all track runners in the 1952 Olympics held
Jan 15, 2015 Rachel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4 1/2 stars

Reviewed for

Overall Review:
The Perfect Mile is a remarkable and inspiring read. Author Neal Bascomb introduces readers to three amateur athletes who attempt to run under a four minute mile. Bascomb meticulously recounts the men's training, failed attempts, heartbreak and sorrow. When one runner finally breaks the record, the emotion practically leaps off the page.

The Perfect Mile is well-written and easy to follow despite lots of interesting information and
Jan 29, 2014 Matija rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Perfect Mile is a story of how the first sub-four minute mile was run. The title actually refers to a later duel of the two top milers (and main characters of the novel) at the Empire Games in Vancouver, one of the greatest athletic races of all time.

In the 1950s, three runners started getting close to running a mile in four minutes, which sparked a global media frenzy to see who can manage it first. These men were an Englishman Roger Bannister, an Australian John Landy and an American Wes S
Scott Bodien
Oct 02, 2013 Scott Bodien rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books about running I have read. Not just a complete overview of Bannister, Santee, and Landy as they struggle to break the infamous 4-minute mile, but the epic race between Landy and Bannister in the 1954 Empire Games. Getting through all the details of each failed attempt became a little troublesome for me, but the reward was worth it. Heard a rumor this might be made into a movie, I sure hope it is true
Apr 08, 2016 Carolyn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A very thorough and well-told history of the race to the 4-minute mile. Contrasts true amateur sport with the then-up-and-coming pseudo-professional. Roger Bannister was a full-time medical student the entire time he was training and racing; he finished his schooling and took his qualifying exams right around the time he broke the 4-minute barrier. His two chief competitors in the effort to get there first were John Landy, an Australian running on inferior facilities against mediocre competitors ...more
Jun 10, 2011 Eliot rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the book. It's really interesting to see the different training philosophies and running styles. The narration of the races themselves in this book is surprisingly suspenseful, given that you know in general the results of most of the races. And maybe I'm just a sucker for sports metaphors, but I thought the book was really inspiring. I would recommend it for anyone.
Kent Anderson
I liked how this author weaved the stories of the 3 runners that were chasing the 4:00 mile back in the 50's. He had some great detail what the runners were doing to train, and what was going on in their lives. It was a good book. Not sure if it motivated me to want to run all that much though....
Couldn't finish it. It was interesting for the first few chapters and then I got bored with it. It does a great job of filling you in on each persons backstories. However, that's what bored me. The loads of back story. This is why I'm too ADD to read books anymore.
Todd Cannon
Jan 14, 2015 Todd Cannon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, I loved every minute reading this book. I knew that Roger Bannister from England was the first man to run under four minutes for the mile but I did not know anything else about the story. I did not realize that these three men were all pushing for it at the same time. It seems to me that if someone had wanted to write a fictional novel about breaking the four minute mile back before it was actually done they could not have crafted a better story.

Even though I knew Bannister would do it fir
Gil Bradshaw
Aug 18, 2007 Gil Bradshaw rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Sports enthusiasts
This book is well-read, and a fabulous book. It really makes you want to get out and run. I have listened to this book 3 and a half times and would like to more, but don't have the time.
Anne Broyles
May 04, 2014 Anne Broyles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This engaging book brings back the excitement of a time when many believed the human body was incapable of running a mile in under four minutes. Profiling three of the major contenders for the honor of breaking the mile world record in the 1950s, readers follow an Aussie, a Brit and a student at the University of Kansas, all of whom worked hard to be the first to set that record, Bascomb's writing is filled with details that make the story exciting. Even though I knew who was the first four-minu ...more
Aug 18, 2014 Sjunebug rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you're not really into running, everything about it and it's history, this book will probably bore you to death. But I love it, and have read it a couple times. The different athletes starred in the book travel such different routes to accomplish (or not) their goals, which is always the case in running and in life. And Bannister's renaissance life (why not do everything?!) is inspiring, more so to me than the modern day elites who devote their entire lives to training. That's cool... but if ...more
Apr 02, 2015 Eugene rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Thank you kindle unlimited! I have been meaning to read this book for years now, and it was a fast read (appropriate for a book about running). I have an affinity for the era of Ben Hogan (see previous review), Marvin Eder, or the early to mid-50s in general. The Perfect Mile hit a few of my sweet spots of interest. I enjoyed most was the depiction of the true amateur athlete, against the landscape evolving towards professionalism. On a personal level, if you feel like you don't have enough time ...more
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Neal Bascomb is a national award-winning and New York Times bestselling author of a number of books, all non-fiction narratives, all focused on inspiring stories of adventure or achievement. His work has been translated into over 18 languages, featured in several documentaries, and optioned for major film and television projects.

Born in Colorado and raised in St. Louis, he is the product of public
More about Neal Bascomb...

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“A man who sets out to become an artist at the mile is something like a man who sets out to discover the most graceful method of being hanged. No matter how logical his plans, he can not carry them out without physical suffering.” 3 likes
“Running had become more of a competition to draw out the best that was in him, as if he were plumbing the depths of his will.” 0 likes
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