Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It” as Want to Read:
The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

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

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  7,683 ratings  ·  556 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
Paperback, 322 pages
Published April 6th 2005 by Mariner Books (first published April 2004)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Perfect Mile, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Perfect Mile

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.17  · 
Rating details
 ·  7,683 ratings  ·  556 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It
Mar 11, 2008 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
Sep 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Brian Sweany
Aug 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 25, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Feb 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Very well-written and well-researched book. I was impressed with how well the story was told. It kept my interest much as a novel keeps my interest: I didn’t want to put it down. I especially appreciated that it didn’t come across as a research project, but rather as a good story to share. Now I know the story of the four-minute mile, and what a great story it is!
May 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jacques Bezuidenhout
Mar 09, 2020 rated it really liked it
How the 4 minute mile got broken, told in a very captivating way.

You follow the life/careers of Roger Bannister (UK), Landy (AUS), and Santee (USA).
The book tracks their numerous failures, training regimes and how they worked to break the mile record.

There is a great deal of research that have gone into this book. Detailing races, feelings and emotions.

Few things as nice as listening to a well written running book, whilst running.

It was great hearing about the legends that have set the foundatio
Amy Hansen
Oct 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A masterfully told story capable of engaging those who are interested in the story from a historical perspective, those who are interested because they love the sport, and everyone in between. The story is a great one of itself, but Bascomb does an excellent job of putting the story in its historical context and showing the characters of all the significant players, while truly keeping it a book about running. I loved how he gave stats for the training, and his method for describing each of the ...more
Apr 26, 2018 rated it really liked it
Heavy on race reports, light on training regimens, the book is suitable for the running aficionado with a soft spot for history (and lap-times), but probably not many others. The reader's (yes, I listened to the audio book) matter-of-factly voice fit the 1950s setting, but took away from the emotional side of the story.
Jan 14, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: for-fun-uni, running, 2018
starts perhaps a bit slow, but the writing of the record-breaking Bannister run and the Vancouver Empire games is brilliant and made my heart beat like I was watching it live and had something at stake
Letitia Moffitt
Jun 20, 2018 rated it it was amazing
A terrific book, well-written with an edge-of-your-seat exciting storyline. Highly recommended.
Silviu Burcea
Jan 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: running
Reliving the history

The book is so well written you can easily picture yourself racing along/against Bannister and Landy. You'll have a perfect read of the Perfect Mile.
Connie Ciampanelli
Nov 13, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Nov 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I am a runner and I love it. (Though that hasn't always been the case. You can read more about my conversion to running here: ) So I was naturally interested in this book since it's all about running. But there is also historical significance in learning more about this event along with what was going on in the world at the time it took place. I was fascinated by the view of amateur and professional athletics in the 1950's, and how much athletics have cha ...more
You might think fourteen hours of narration about a race lasting around four minutes is a bit ridiculous, but this is a fabulous and fascinating account of not just the three athletes who individually strove to run the sub-four-minute mile, but of the history of the sport of racing, the ideal (and reality) of amateur athletics, the tension between Great Britain and its former colonies in the mid-20th century, and the psychology of people faced with what appears to be an insurmountable barrier. I ...more
Sep 22, 2011 rated it liked it
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

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

Russell Atkinson
Mar 12, 2014 rated it liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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
Mike Petty
Mar 03, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Aleisha  Zolman
Jul 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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 rated it it was amazing
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:
Scott Bodien
Jun 06, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Jun 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 20, 2011 rated it liked it
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.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
AP Language SHS: Adam Krieger "The Perfect Mile" 14 23 Oct 02, 2017 05:58PM  

Readers also enjoyed

  • Running with the Buffaloes: A Season Inside with Mark Wetmore, Adam Goucher, and the University of Colorado Men's Cross-Country Team
  • Once a Runner
  • Pre: The Story of America's Greatest Running Legend, Steve Prefontaine
  • Again to Carthage
  • Ultramarathon Man: Confessions of an All-Night Runner
  • Bowerman and the Men of Oregon: The Story of Oregon's Legendary Coach and Nike's Co-founder
  • Duel in the Sun: Alberto Salazar, Dick Beardsley, and America's Greatest Marathon
  • Eat and Run: My Unlikely Journey to Ultramarathon Greatness
  • Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
  • ChiRunning: A Revolutionary Approach to Effortless, Injury-Free Running
  • Running with the Kenyans: Passion, Adventure, and the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth
  • Daniels' Running Formula
  • Running on Empty: An Ultramarathoner's Story of Love, Loss, and a Record-Setting Run Across America
  • Run! 26.2 Stories of Blisters and Bliss
  • Finding Ultra: Rejecting Middle Age, Becoming One of the World's Fittest Men, and Discovering Myself
  • 26 Marathons: What I've Learned About Faith, Identity, Running, and Life From Each Marathon I've Run
  • My Life on the Run: The Wit, Wisdom, and Insights of a Road Racing Icon
  • Racing the Rain
See similar books…
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

News & Interviews

Are you having a difficult time reading these days? If so, you're not alone. Since the pandemic began, I've found it harder to concentrate on...
69 likes · 34 comments
“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.” 4 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
More quotes…