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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Celebrate the Four Minute Mile




Anniversary of the Four minute Mile
Some things are worth celebrating! Today is the anniversary of Roger Bannister breaking the four minute mile. In honor of "the Miracle Mile" the BBC has posted video of this record breaking race.

Experts said it couldn't be done
Prior to this time, "experts" had stated that it was physiologically impossible for man to run a mile in faster than four minutes. Within a month another person had broken the record.

So, although his record only stood for one month, Bannister will be forever known as the man who broke the "physiologically impossible" record. Bannister knew that the race was one of the mind as much as of the body.

How did he do it?
In an interview Bannister says:
The target of the four minute mile then came into view. It was talked about in the '30s, and the Swedes got very close, but it had just taken us after the war to gradually come down to a time closer, and in '53, which was the year, if you remember, when Everest was climbed by a British Commonwealth team, I ran 4:03 and I felt the next year it should be possible. It was my last year anyway, and so I trained hard through the winter with two friends, Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher, Brasher from Cambridge, Chataway from Oxford, and they helped with the pace making and really made it possible, because you could only break a time really by running evenly. It's a question of spreading the available energy, aerobic and anaerobic, evenly over four minutes. If you run one part very much too fast, you pay a price. If you run another part more slowly your overall time is slower. So that was really the secret.
Belief precedes accomplishment
So to reach his goal: he planned it with friends and had people to push him to become faster and more evenly paced. It wasn't an accident, but I find it interesting that the year before he did it, he BELIEVED it could be done. That was the difference.

The desire to prove experts wrong.
Sometimes experts know what they are talking about. Sometimes experts are wrong about the attainment of lofty goals, but we'll never know it unless someone believes it can be done and sets everything on accomplishing that goal.

The Miracle Mile in the Classroom

I often run "the miracle mile" with some of my students. When someone says "this student cannot be taught" or "this student is hopeless" the goal is set. Or sometimes the four minute mile is self-caused when a student tells me "computers hate me" or "I hate computers." The mark is again set.

Do I always achieve my goals to help students?
No, not always. But more often than not, breakthroughs happen with students and it spills over to other classes.

Partner with other teachers
Usually, it is several of us teachers who have agreed with one another to not give up, to persist, and it is together that we reach the insurmountable psyche of a student who becomes educated and emerges with a renewed self worth and changed life.

Though one teacher (eg. Roger Bannister) is credited with the breakthrough, there are often two or three others in the wings that partnered towards a common goal: Reaching the unreachable.

Teaching is about running four minute miles every day!

Resources:

Today
The current fastest mile record is held by Moroccan Hicham El Guerrouj, who ran a time of 3 minutes 43.13 seconds in Rome, Italy, on 7 July 1999.

It all started with Roger Bannister on May 6, 1954.


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