“If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold On!’ “
-Rudyard Kipling (as quoted in the Prologue of The Perfect Mile)
I have been reading The Perfect Mile by Neal Bascomb which is about 3 runners in 1952 who set out to be the first to run a mile in under 4 minutes. FANTASTIC book! You can find my review of the book from a “literary” standpoint here, but I also wanted to share some of the inspiration I have received through this book.
“The essential thing in life is not so much conquering as fighting well.”
-Baron de Coubertin, founder of the modern Olympic Games (as quoted in chapter 2 of The Perfect Mile)
The drive and hard work of the athletes and coaches in this book to achieve a seemingly unachievable goal is unbelievable and motivating. Their personal histories and the historical events of the time really drive home how dedicated and disciplined these people were. Full-time med student and training as an olympian with no financial backing so you can keep your amateur athlete status sounds beyond impossible. But they did it.
“To be great, one does not have to be mad, but definitely it helps.”
-Percy Cerutty (as quoted in chapter 3)
Some of my favorite parts of the book are the headings at the beginning of each chapter. I am a runner and they capture so well my feelings about that part of my life, but they apply to more than just running. The quotes are insights into the joys and sacrifices that come from complete dedication to a goal or idea.
“Whatever you can do,
Or think you can, begin it.
Boldness has power, and genius,
And magic in it.
-Goethe (as quoted in chapter 9)
When I finished reading about the race in which the 4 minute barrier was broken for the first time, I had to get on YouTube and see if I could find video footage of the actual race. Sure enough, I could watch the whole thing. The video has commentary from the runner (I won’t tell you who it is so as to not spoil the outcome) and he says he “felt so full of running” through the first 3 laps. I immediately loved and related to that phrase – “full of running.”
Running (and life) can be hard work. Some days it can feel like pulling your feet through thick sludge. But then there are those days when the timing, weather, diet, and rest align perfectly and breathe new life and energy into your legs and soul. I love that feeling of beginning a run and just feeling strong, fast, connected, and alive – full of running.
When that feeling transfers to life in general, it makes for a pretty great day.
John Landy was one of the runners trying to break the 4 minute mile barrier. He is quoted in the book as saying, “In any running event, you are absolutely alone. Nobody can help you. But short races are run without thought. In very long races you must go a great distance simply to be present in the laps that really count. But almost every part of the mile is important – you can never let down, never stop thinking, and you can be beaten at almost any point. I suppose you could say it is like life. I had wanted to master it.”
I love running because of the ways it teaches me about life and myself, and how much stronger I have become because of it – physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. So Landy’s comparison of the mile to life resounds with me. Though, I have never felt alone in a running event as he describes. In a race or even just in training runs I have always felt the support and faith of my family. They cheer me on and make sure that they make it a priority for me to get out on those runs so I can keep my soul healthy. I love the feeling of camaraderie in a race between runners as well. And most of all, I feel my Heavenly Father and my Savior as I connect with the earth and my inner self in a unique and powerful way as I run. It is these same influences that reassure me that I am never alone in life either.
“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same…
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run –
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And – which is more – you’ll be a Man, my son!
-Rudyard Kipling (as quoted in chapter 4)