It all started with a disappointing loss. Roger Bannister lost the 1500-meter race in the 1952 Olympics held in Helsinki. It was that point in which a loss sparked a man to do something never done before, and that was to run a sub 4-minute mile.
This feat had never been accomplished before and was even researched by the human medical field and found physically impossible for the human heart and body to run a 4-minute mile. But with that loss, Roger Bannister returned home to his home country of Britain and begin intensified training for the impossible. Training begins, running miles upon miles, with pacers, and running many intervals. Several races were run, as he and others attempted to break the 4-minute mile. It was getting within reach by Bannister and a couple others, and on May 6th, 1954, at Oxford University, with about 3,000 spectators, Roger Bannister did the medically proven impossible, crossing the finish line with his head tilted back, eyes closed and mouth wide open sucking in air, he had run a sub-four minute mile.
The physically impossible had been made possible by a man who had the grit, the perseverance, and the determination to prove all the doubters wrong. Even those who have performed research saying it was not physically possible to perform such a feat. But, as with many records, once the individual feat has been shattered, more confidence is gained by others in the world, and most often times, others begin to accomplish the same feat. It only takes the visionary, the most gut checked of individuals, the pioneers, the “box makers”(not the outside the box thinkers), to break the records, do the impossible, and move our world forward by giant leaps for mankind.
The record had never been broken or accomplished, ever. But, it lasted just 46 days, as another accomplished runner broke the record again on June 21, 1954, in Finland. The record continues to be broken, but it is a stiff challenge, as Bannister stated in 2012, “It’s amazing that more people have climbed Mount Everest than have broken the 4-minute mile.” Proving the difficulty of the challenge very simply.
These sorts of events prove that virtually anything is possible if we just have a do what it takes mindset, are willing to outwork others, put in the time, and sometimes operate with a chip on our shoulder keenly looking to prove the doubters wrong. If we set forth a specific goal, break it down into steps or levels, for a one-step or level at a time approach, be very intentional with our actions to achieve those individual levels or steps, we will achieve those smaller goals, of which over time add up to a potential larger goal. Much like Bannister using pacers to make sure each individual quarter time goal was met to achieve the larger goal of a sub-four minute mile. Without the discipline of accomplishing the smaller steps, the medically impossible feat would have never been smashed!
I write about Roger Bannister today, as when I first studied about him a couple years ago, the story was fascinating to me and his feat helped inspire me to go on with some challenging projects of my own. And this post is to honor his passing, as he left this earth, a very accomplished runner, doctor, and academic on March 3. He truly made a difference for so many and inspired others to do what he had done, the medically proven impossible. Unbelievable!! Don’t accept limitations from anyone. Your inner voice better say, “Prove them wrong!” There is no future in giving up!!! Happy Leadership Thursday!!