The Perfect Mile

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9780007173730: The Perfect Mile

The inspirational story of three international runners from three different continents attempting to achieve what no-one else before them had managed – to break the four-minute mile barrier. It was the ultimate test of endurance, and the human drama that unfolded is told here for the first time.

In sport, running the four-minute mile was the elusive Holy Grail. For decades the best middle-distance runners had tried and failed – most considered the barrier to be beyond the limits of human endeavour.

Then in late 1952, shortly after the Helsinki Olympics, three men set out to challenge the record books: Roger Bannister, the Oxford medical student, the great British hero who epitomised the ideal of the amateur athlete; John Landy, the tireless Australian, the romantic who trained night and day in search of perfection; and the American Wes Santee, son of a Kansas ranch hand, a natural runner and the quickest of the three ('I was just born to run fast').

Three men, each of contrasting character, competing thousands of miles apart, but all with the same valedictory goal. The Perfect Mile is the stirring account of their quest for sporting martyrdom, charting their journey through triumph and failure, along the way capturing the moment when Bannister broke the record in a monumental run at the Iffley Road cinder track in May 1954. It was a feat that became one of the most celebrated in the history of British sport.

Far from bringing an end to the rivalry, this watershed moment turned out to be merely the prelude to a final climactic battle three months later – the ultimate head-to-head between Bannister and Landy in what was dubbed ‘the mile of the century’ at the Vancouver Empire Games.

Using exhaustive primary research into the period, including interviews with the three athletes as well as hitherto unexamined archive material, the author provides a fascinating account of what happened and an invaluable insight into the motivations and characters of three amazing achievers.

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Review:

"...painstakingly researched...Bascomb succeeds in seducing the reader into sypathising with them all & feeling involved in their individual stories." -- The Spectator

"...well-paced and diligently researched. He manages to turn it into a tear-jerker." -- The Economist

"Boscomb offers more stylistic flair, psychological penetration and narrative drama..." -- The Guardian

..."It is a testament to the book that my thoughts at the end were about the runners..." -- Sunday Telegraph

About the Author:

Neal Bascomb was born in St Louis, MO and is a graduate of Miami University. He began his writing career for Euromoney magazine in London before returning to the States to work as a book publisher for four years. He helped start the literary agency Carlisle & Company, and in autumn 2003 Doubleday published his first work of non-fiction, Higher. He is passionate about athletics and hockey.

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