The Perfect Mile By Neal Bascomb

Rating: 4.5/5

Recommended For:

Anyone interested in running and the limits of human potential. 

Key Takeaways:

  • “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 cannot carry them without physical suffering.” -Paul O’Neil, Sports Illustrated, May 31st, 1956
  • “The essential thing in life is not so much conquering as fighting well.” -Baron De Coubertin

  • Does it work? Does it not? You learn by your mistakes. It’s so subtle. If you run so hard that you can’t recover, you haven’t done any good. It’s stressing the machinery to the point where if you had a graph and plotted performance againat stress, the line at first would proceed smoothly upwards, but there comes a point where more stress becomes counterproductive and the line falls. 
  • Zatopek’s training methods were based on making running a way of life. He believed in training ones will power in small steps, every day. Discipline was the key.
  • The discipline to get out and run is like a car starting. There’s an immense amount of energy you need to start the car, but once you’re rolling, it’s easy. 
  • Every morning in Africa, an antelope wakes up. It knows it must out run the fastest lion, or it will be killed. Every morning in Africa, a lion wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest antelope, or it will starve. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a lion or an antelope when the sun comes up you better be running.
  • “Whatever you can do, or think you can, begin it. Boldness has a power, and genius, and magic in it.” -Goethe
  • Roman soldiers calculated their long marches in Mille Passus (Mille: one thousand; Passus: a two-step stride.) Given that each stride is roughly two feet, five inches— shorter than the average because the soldiers carried over fifty pounds of provisions and weapons the earliest mile translated into roughly 1611 yards. 
  • Aristotle recommended training one’s breath by holding it in for increasing lengths of time; this improved strength and allowed the body to retain its spirits and humors. 
  • “We must wake up to the fact that athletics is not, nor ever can be perfected; there will always be more to learn.” -Arthur Newton


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