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The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal, and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It par [Bascomb, Neal]
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Longueur : 348 pages Word Wise: Activé Composition améliorée: Activé
Page Flip: Activé Langue : Anglais

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From Publishers Weekly

The attempt by three men in the 1950s to become the first to run the mile in less than four minutes is a classic 20th-century sports story. Bascomb's excellent account captures all of the human drama and competitive excitement of this legendary racing event. It helps that the story and its characters are so engaging to begin with. The three rivals span the globe: England's Roger Bannister, who combines the rigors of athletic training with the "grueling life of a medical student"; Australia's John Landy, "driven by a demand to push himself to the limit"; and Wes Santee from the U.S., a brilliant strategic runner who became the "victim" of the "[h]ypocrisy and unchecked power" of the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU). Although Bannister broke the record before Landy, Landy soon broke Bannister's record, and the climax of the book is a long and superb account of the race between the two men at the Empire Games in Vancouver on August 7, 1954. Bascomb provides the essential details of this "Dream Race"â€"which was heard over the radio by 100 million peopleâ€"while Santee, who may have been able to beat both of them, was forced by AAU restrictions to participate only as a broadcast announcer. Bascomb definitively shows how this perfect race not only was a "defining moment in the history of the mileâ€"and of sport as well," but also how it reveals "a sporting world in transition" from amateurism to professionalism.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From The New Yorker

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.
Copyright © 2005 The New Yorker

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  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 3044 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 348 pages
  • Editeur : Mariner Books; Édition : Reprint (6 avril 2005)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ASIN: B003UD8KD8
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) HASH(0x9cfd00f0) étoiles sur 5 188 commentaires
28 internautes sur 29 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9decb0cc) étoiles sur 5 Can't Wait for the Movie 18 décembre 2004
Par Kevin Joseph - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Based on ample first-hand details gleaned from interviewing Roger Bannister, John Landy and Wes Santee, "The Perfect Mile" provides a nuanced character study of what drives these three great men toward breaking the most elusive of athletic goals: the four-minute-mile. While serious students of the sport will know the outcome of this tale before reading it, Neal Bascomb is able to create and maintain a fair amount of suspense by allowing the reader to experience events leading up to the 1954 Empire Games showdown from three very different perspectives.

Roger Bannister is the thinking man's runner, with the classic middle distance athlete's long stride and finishing kick as well as insights into the scientific principles that underlie cardiovascular exertion. These strengths, however, are offset by the demanding medical studies that severely limit his training time and by his tendency to become overwrought before big races.

John Landy is the workhorse of the trio, logging more miles than the others and able to bring a single-minded focus to the task. But he lacks the closing speed and power of the classic milers, forcing him to run the legs out of his competitors from the front.

Wes Santee, the least famous and accomplished of the three, may well be the most talented. Yet the demands of his University of Kansas track schedule, military commitments, and confrontations with track and field's governing body are impediments that prove too difficult to overcome.

For me, the best part of this book was the fact that these three men pursued this historic goal in a noble and dignified fashion that made you really pull for each of them somehow to be the first. None of the spoils of today's professional athletes was available, so each of them was motivated by the simple ideal of achieving the impossible. I also admired the way in which the author tied this athletic quest to the world events of the 1950s, creating a strong resonance between the historic events taking place on the track and the happenings in the politics and culture of the times.

-Kevin Joseph, author of "The Champion Maker"
12 internautes sur 12 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9ced1d2c) étoiles sur 5 The perfect account of the race to the 4-minute mile...and beyond 22 décembre 2005
Par D. Friedman - Publié sur
Format: Broché
The Perfect Mile is about the conquest of the four-minute mile, which like the ascent of Mt. Everest, stood in the early 50s as one of the last great frontiers of human endeavor. Three runners emerged as candidates to be the first to break through this barrier. One, Roger Bannister, was British. A full-time medical student and intern, he approached sport of track as the last of the consummate amateurs in the traditional mold. He had little coaching and devised his own training methods. Perceived by many in England as the potential resurrection of British athletics, in a sad state at the time, he carried the heavy load of hopeful expectations thrust upon him by a grim British nation suffering through post-war shortages and austerity. Considered aloof by his enemies in the British press, he possessed two powerful secret weapons: an advanced medical knowledge of the causes of and the techniques to combat fatigue and muscle failure, and an incredible capacity to ignore pain in the late stages of a race and unleash an extraordinary kick.

The Australian, John Landy, competed by seeing to it that he was the best conditioned athlete on the track. In the early 50s Australia was an athletic backwater. After returning home to Australia from the disappointment of failing to even make the semifinal qualifying heat in the mile at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics, Landy embarked on a brutal training regimen, inspired by the physical fitness guru and great Czech runner Emil Zatopek who won gold at Helsinki in the 5000 meter, 10,000 meter and marathon events, and who Landy humbly approached as an acolyte near the close of the games. By the time the 4-minute mark was in Landy's sights, he was winning almost all of his races as "the human rabbit", leading from the starting gun and simply running the legs off his competition by setting a punishing pace.

The American, Wes Santee, was the youngest and probably the most naturally gifted of these runners. He competed for the University of Kansas, and was soon breaking records, including the world record for the 1500 meter event, and the American collegiate mile record, which he took from the legendary Glenn Cunnningham, former holder of the world record for the mile. Intensely competitive, Santee loved big crowds and high-impact races. His biggest handicaps were his cold and totally unsupportive father, and even worse, the AAU (Amateur Athletic Union), led by the ogre-ish Avery Brundage, which controlled U.S. track and field, and all eligibility for the Olympics with an iron fist. As Santee became more and more famous and independent, he began to be perceived more as a threat than as an asset to the power structure of so-called amateur athletics in America.

The perfect mile is a terrific page-turner and is packed with goodies from beginning to end. The writing is pitched just right: flowing, colorful, detailed, not dry, and never simplistic or trite. It starts with a brief thumbnail history of the mile event and the thinking that led many to believe of the 1886 record of 4:12.75, which stood for 31 years, "the probability is that this record will never be beaten." The complexity of each of the three milers' motivations is given breadth and scope, with particular attention given to the humiliating experience each suffered at the Helsinki Olympics. And The Perfect Mile doesn't stop with the breaking of the 4-minute mark, which occurs about halfway through the book. The second half of the book leads up to the inevitable showdown on the same track, the "perfect mile" of the title, one of the great classic races of all time. For each of these racers a victory in this showdown would have an intensely personal meaning as a reaffirmation or as a vindication of what they had achieved.

Although it helps to be interested in track (as is yours truly, although I have never run a race in my life), The Perfect Mile, like the very best sports books, is not ultimately about sport, but about the human beings who compete in it for a rich variety of human reasons.
13 internautes sur 14 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9decbc30) étoiles sur 5 The Perfect Retelling 17 janvier 2006
Par Robert Slocum - Publié sur
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
I found the climax of this story-Bannister and Landy's race in Vancouver in 1955-to be almost impossibly gripping. This whole book is just about perfect. It is about a particular athletic quest, and it is also about a key transition period in sport.

There were two related aspects to change at this time in track and field (and by extension other already professional sports). The more obvious was the glaring contradiction between the old, 100% pure amateur model on the one hand, and the growing business and media phenomenon we know today on the other. This subtext is brought out in the second part of the story, and especially in the sad tale of the straight-talking American, Wes Santee.

But this was also a period of radical change in training methods. Emil Zatopek, the Czech runner who won the 5,000 meter, 10,000 meter, AND marathon runs at the 1952 Olympics, is the key figure at the outset of the book. His successes taught runners like Bannister, Landy, and Santee that more training, and harder training, would yield faster times. The author outlines older ideas of conditioning that look ridiculously precious and half-hearted by modern standards. As a masters athlete I was especially struck by this phase of the story, and the author does a good job of recapping the sorts of training the runners did throughout.

The three are so characteristic of their countries, they could almost be fictional types. American Wes Santee is brash and outspoken. It is he who calls the financial bluff of the Neanderthal-like powers that ruled amateur athletics in his day, and it is he who is most severely victimized in the process. (In a kind of entrapment scenario, he was given extra money by one set of AAU officials, and then banned for life by others.) He is also impeded by having to subordinate his individual goals to that of his college team's. John Landy is the hard-working Aussie, scrabbling along with the weakest home-grown competitive environment and the most grueling training routine. Roger Bannister is the idealistic, individualistic and long-suffering Brit. "When he goes out to run," one of his mates says, "he looks like a man going to the electric chair." The sportswriters are awfully grandiose in the England of his day, and Bannister's contemplative manner is indeed a bit Shakespearean.

I have only two small quibbles with this book. One is tiny, especially for the non-athlete: the author pokes good fun at old conditioning ideas, all the way back to the Greeks, but I would have preferred if he had brought modern physiological science to bear a little on the shifting trends of the early fifties. By modern lights Bannister, Landy, and Santee did an awful lot of hammering. This was much better than doing very little of anything, which was approximately the state of things before Zatopek came along. But now we know that there are distinct benefits to long, slow distance training, even for four-minute races. During his brief after-history of the mile record, the author mentions Peter Snell's twenty-mile training runs, but it's as if he's just another specimen in a zoo, and you're expected to merely roll your eyes and not care too much about the meaning of this.

The other quibble is slightly larger, and it's simply that I think Bascomb could have put a bit more comic relief in this work. Apart from the electric chair quote above, there are two incidents of celebrity mis-identification with regards to John Landy. That's it. I'm not looking for a barrel of monkeys hiding in the history of this very earnest endeavor, but as Hollywood knows, a bit of a tension/release cycle can heighten the ultimate effect of tension. I like an author who stays in the shadows, but I think he might have lightened the tone occasionally-oh, maybe in introducing some of the overblown headlines of the day. That sort of thing. The book is written in Landy's running style-one pace; relentless.

And make no mistake, it's an awesome book. Very important: you know who broke the four-minute mile barrier, but you probably don't know who won that Vancouver race. So don't look at the pictures in the middle of the book until you're done with that!!! The dramatic full-page shot on the left as Chapter 14 opens on the right? HIDE IT! Although as you see from my first sentence, knowing the outcome doesn't spoil things too much.
6 internautes sur 7 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9cb1af18) étoiles sur 5 Great Topic, Good Book 11 juin 2004
Par Un client - Publié sur
Format: Relié Achat vérifié
Neal Bascomb's "The Perfect Mile" tackles a subject - the mythic quest to run a 4-minute mile - that has begged for a definitive book for years. While I wouldn't call Bascomb's book masterful, the reader will come away with a good understanding of two of sport's great moments, Roger Bannister's conquest of the 4-minute barrier on May 6, 1954 in Oxford, England, and the more epic race six weeks later involving Bannister and Australian John Landy at the British Empire Games in Vancouver, also won by Bannister in under 4 minutes. The latter race was the "perfect mile" of the book's title. Landy had lowered Bannister's world record shortly after the Englishman cracked the 4-minute barrier, setting the stage for the head-to-head showdown in Vancouver.
The riveting chapter on the Vancouver Games mile is perhaps the best part of the book. Bascomb discloses the interesting and little-known fact that Landy had lacerated his foot by stepping barefoot on broken glass the day before the race. The outcome of the race if Landy had run without injury creates an intriguing "what if" scenario. Readers will also find interesting the subplot involving American Wes Santee of the University of Kansas. A contemporary of Bannister and Landy, Santee's near-miss attempts at a 4-minute mile were thwarted by the astounding arrogance of a hostile Amateur Athletic Union and its president Avery Brundage. Like all institutional corruption, the story of how the AAU operated to preserve its own power rather than serve the interests of sport and the athletes it represented would be worthy of a book in itself. Bascomb devotes space to the short-lived role of the crusty Australian coach Percy Cerutty in John Landy's running career. Landy had a falling out with Cerutty after being disillusioned with his methods and coaching style. Although not discussed in "The Perfect Mile", it is interesting that Cerutty later justified his high-mileage approach to training by successfully coaching New Zealand runner Peter Snell, who lowered the mile world record to 3:54.1, well below what either Landy or Bannister achieved.
Not discussed in "The Perfect Mile" are several fascinating postscripts that would have added perspective to Bannister and Landy's achievements, and enriched Bascomb's book greatly. One of these was the reunion held in 1994 in England of all world-record milers since Bannister broke the 4-minute barrier in 1954. The only absentee was English miler Steve Ovett, who lowered the world record twice. This marvelous event was appreciatively described some years ago in "Sports Illustrated", if not Bascomb's book. Commentary from those in attendance would have provided interesting insights into the mythos of the mile run as a classic event, now becoming anachronistic because it's seldom run in favor of the shorter 1,500 meter run. Another potentially interesting topic would have been Irishman Eammon Coghlan's 3:58.15 mile, run indoors in 1994 at Harvard University. It's the only sub 4-minute mile run by someone over 40 years of age, and probably every bit the equal of Bannister's achievement in 1954 as a 25-year old. It would have also made fascinating reading if Bascomb had written about Bannister's recent conversation with Moroccan miler Hicham El Guerrouj, the current world record holder at 3:43.13. That information would have been readily accessible, since Bascomb interviewed Bannister in person for the book.
All of which leads me to believe that while Bascomb is a capable journalist, he isn't steeped in the rich tradition of middle-distance running, a sport that uniquely and gracefully combines speed and endurance. Beyond that, the book has its occasional editorial lapses (e.g., Santee's visit to "Redding," Pennsylvania instead of Reading) and a sometimes overwrought verbal style. All that is forgivable given the author's sincere and basically successful effort to address a deserving episode in sports history.
3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
HASH(0x9e5b60b4) étoiles sur 5 The Great Race for the Four: Story of Three Great Men 30 mai 2004
Par Daniel Hurley - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Terrific story of three great men from different continents who are more than just athletes but are men with academic responsibilities that come first but they found time to train under unique circumstances while trying to break the four minute mile barrier on cinder tracks. Banister is well know as the 1952 Olympian who is racing against his own personal time knowing his completion of medical school will end his career soon as he tries to break the barrier before anyone else. John Landy is the modest Australian somewhat isolated who trains virtually at when he can and he has a break through after leaving Cerutty's unique Stoatan training program that may have given him the necessary base to perform at a high level. Wes Santee is the Kansas miler whose coach puts the team above individualism that seems to cost Santee the opportunity to run fresh against major competition. All three come to a head in 1954, as it is virtually a race of opportunity since either of the three appears to be able to break it. Bannister literally streaks ahead with his training partners in a controversial but legitimate first sub four-minute mile. Landy roars back weeks later with an amazing front led 3:57. The second climax of the book is the great show down between the two sub fours at the Vancouver games. Santee cannot be there due to his commitment to the Marines. Landy runs in spite of an injury, keeps it secret but runs another sub four after leading virtually from the start but is cut down by Bannister at the end. Terrific book about three great men that you have to admire and you feel for Santee who has limited individual opportunities and is handcuffed by the rigid AAU officials who also limit his opportunities seemingly in pay back for his free spirit. Wonderful book that will charge up any former or current track athlete particularly when you think how just rain could ruin any attempt by making ruts and lakes in the cinder track and even after rolling off the water and repaving the track, the dampness would remain making the track heavy to run on. The author also fills you in on what else was going on in the 50's and punctuates the book with quotes from classical writers such as Lewis Carroll that have some metaphorical relationship to the chase for the record. The racing passages are so exciting, you can literally feel the lactic acid building up in your legs while reading of their attempts to run those last 200 yards in those gallant attempts at the record.
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