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3:59.4: The Quest to Break the 4 Minute Mile [Paperback]

John Bryant
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
Price: 8.99 & FREE Delivery in the UK on orders over 10. Details
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Book Description

7 April 2005
The years 1953-4 were marked by the conquests of two unattainable peaks - Mount Everest and the Four Minute Mile. But the dream of setting a new track record for this distance started as early as the 1880s, by the American Lon Myers, a stick-thin hypochondriac who was sick before and after every race, yet still held every US record from 50 yards to the mile. By 1902 a record of 4 minutes and 16 seconds was set by the Englishman Joe Binks, an amateur runner who in his spare time worked as a journalist and writer. And again in 1923 the world inched ever closer to the elusive four minute record thanks to Paavo Nurmi, the 'Phantom Finn', who won nine Olympic gold medals and set so many world records that statisticians are still arguing over the total. Finally, in 1945, when the Swede Gunder 'the Wonder' Haegg ran the mile in 4 minutes and 1.4 seconds the world knew at last that it was on the brink of conquering the Everest of all sports. But it wasn't until three Englishmen teamed up and took on the challenge as one that they succeeded in accomplishing what was described as the most significant sporting achievement of the twentieth century: running the Four Minute Mile. This is the story of the long quest for the 'Magic Mile', almost two hundred years in the making. The methods the runners used and the secrets they uncovered were passed like a baton through the generations, until the quest reached its climax on the 6 May 1954, when Roger Bannister, Christopher Chataway and Chris Brasher united to achieve the impossible.

Frequently Bought Together

3:59.4: The Quest to Break the 4 Minute Mile + The Perfect Distance: Ovett and Coe: The Record Breaking Rivalry + The Dirtiest Race in History: Ben Johnson, Carl Lewis and the 1988 Olympic 100m Final (Wisden Sports Writing)
Price For All Three: 24.27

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Product details

  • Paperback: 310 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow; New Ed edition (7 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099469081
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099469087
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 19.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 472,627 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


"Bryant sets Bannister's crowning glory in a lovingly evoked context" (Independent)

"A fascinating insight into the runners of the late 19th and early 20th centuries" (Spectator)

"Brilliant ... a tour de force of elegant sports writing" (Daily Mail)

"Bryant's fine book is an absorbing read and a tribute to an era long-since passed" (Athletics Weekly)

"It conveys well the momentousness of the achievement- It captures the power of the amateur spirit" (Alastair Campbell, The Times)

Book Description

The biography of the world's most famous sporting achievement, in which Roger Bannister triumphed in 1954 by running the Four Minute Mile. Perfect for fans of the recent theatre hit, Chariots of Fire.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars tour de force 22 April 2004
By A Customer
I rushed out to buy this book after enjoying the BBC television film aboutthe momentous race and agree with Mr Wooldridge that it is a a tour deforce of elegant sports writing. To those who do not know this is a bookabout the first mile run in below four minutes. It is written by a man ofequivocal Cary Grant good looks who has the dashing esprit de corps of theheroes of Chariots of Fire. Mr Bryant was himself, as he points outmodestly, a runner of feline elegance. He was not in the same super leagueas the heroes of whom he writes. Poetic he is however. His words dance andjig like atheletes running. He writes with authority as a man who hashimself pushed his feeble body to the limits and beyond. Reading this bookmade me wonder if Mr Bryant himself had it in him to be an Immortal. No isthe answer. As he himself says he had a long rangy style of running. Hesays with daring honesty and not a little brio that he did not have therequisite "inner strength" and was "a weakling" by comparison to Bannisterand Chataway. But this magnificent book is an ample memorial. He should beproud of it!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars great story & a good read. 26 Jun 2009
I found this book to be a thorughly good read, not too bogged down in stats. The author does a fine job of drawing you into the event, keeping the tale moving along nicely, i found myself always keen to read a little bit further before i put the book down. It does however, start off with a bit too much history & of runners who no doubt paved the way but weren't necessarily on a "quest to break the four minute mile". The title & cover implies that it's all about Roger Bannister & THAT time, but this takes a while to get to. Still an enjoyable book though.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars One of the best mile books 28 Feb 2012
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A very well written account of the attempt on the 4 minute mile, maybe not in depth as 'the Perfect Mile' by Neal Bascomb The Perfect Mile

A nice foreword by Bannister, and a good account of the preceding events and shortly after
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5.0 out of 5 stars Readable account of Bannister's achievements 3 Mar 2014
The quest for the four minute mile has caught the imagination of runners ever since Walter George began to push times down in the late nineteenth century. In this book, Bryant sets the scene over the first half by describing the gradual reduction in the time taken to complete a competitive mile by George, Binks, Nurmi and the rest. The second half then describes Roger Bannister’s achievement at Oxford in 1954 – a time of 3:59.4 (hence the title of the book). Whereas Bob Phillips’ book with a very similar title (3:59.4: The Quest For The Four Minute Mile) concentrates on detailed analysis of the four-minute mile and the runners who got it there, John Bryant’s book delves into the many anecdotes and stories around the characters that led the race to four minutes: Nurmi, Bannister, Landy, Chattaway et al. It is a very readable, popular history of the most famous race.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  1 review
5.0 out of 5 stars Kept Me Reading 21 April 2008
By geobandito - Published on Amazon.com
An excellent history of the pursuit of the 4-minute mile. I thought it would bog in the middle as the numbers and times kepting piling on, but I actually found it compelling to read. Bryant did a good job of distinguishing between all the various runners from various eras (and the pictures in the book help a lot!). He seemed to ignore what was going on outside England at times (for instance, he'd spend a lot of time on certain new records, then barely give on off-hand sentence sometimes when an American set a new mile record. In the second half of the book, however, he did a good job of covering what was going on simultaneously in the 4-minute quest on three continents.
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