Four Minute Mile

For more than one hundred years, runners tried to break the four-minute mile barrier.

It was considered the Holy Grail of track and field. Many said it couldn’t be done. In fact, doctors wrote articles in medical journals explaining why it was physically impossible for the human body to run a mile in less than four minutes.

Always listen to experts. They’ll tell you what can’t be done, and why. Then do it.

~ Robert A. Heinlein

However, in May 1954, a British medical student named Roger Bannister ran the mile in 3:59.4. His amazing accomplishment made headlines around the world. Yet what happened afterward is even more amazing. The four-minute mile was broken again the next month…and then again…and again. It has since been broken more than 700 times, sometimes by several people in the same race.

What happened? They weren’t training any differently, but for the first time they believed they could do it.

The barriers to the mind had come down.

Mind is consciousness which has put on limitations. You are originally unlimited and perfect. Later you take on limitations and become the mind.

~Ramana Maharshi

This story has been a good reminder to me on those occasions when I’ve dealt with my own mental fences which come across as certainties of what I cannot do. Do you have any mental barricades too? You have good news; you’re not alone. Almost everyone has some flimsy barricades which set the limits for them.

These limits are like you telling yourself how big your sky would be, how deep your ocean. You may count the number of seeds in an apple, you can even count the number of apples in a tree, but how are the number of apples in an apple seed to be counted? Setting a limit to your own capacity is similar to wanting to decide how many apples an apple seed will produce!

These mental barriers take many forms. They could be procrastination which keep you mired in a vicious cycle of inactivity as your self- confidence plummets. It could be self-doubt which creates a terrible and unceasing internal noise which bears, as harvest, a belief that you don’t deserve success. There could be a million variations of the theme, but the result is the same. You stay stuck behind the four- minute mile.

One of the most powerful questions I have ever read- and answered- is: How do I limit myself and how do I stop?

When you ask better questions, you get better answers.

Altered Google Image
Altered Google Image

20 thoughts on “Four Minute Mile”

    1. Bannister’s achievement is indeed a very powerful reminder to us all about how limitless we are Vishal. Someone very close talks about being an ‘average’ human being. But the thing is, there is no ‘normal’ or ‘average’ with us humans. Just when you think you’ve figured out where the ‘average’ mark should be set, some human somewhere does something to raise or lower it. I find that very amazing.

      Thank you for coming by. πŸ™‚

  1. Thank you Dagny. Was feeling rather listless and focus was a word I seemed to have deleted from my dictionary… Your piece gave me the boost that I needed, thank you again πŸ™‚

  2. I know about this…we all know in fact. I have been breaking my barriers one by one…as you said small and flimsy ones. And the feeling when you break them is just awesome. It is like discovering a part of yourself which previously did not exist! And yes, there are many more to overcome. Your post is a reinforcement that we should believe in our abilities and capabilities. From the time I broke my leg (bone) during a run, I have developed this barrier…read fear. Yet to overcome that and see myself running again. πŸ™‚

    1. Janaki,

      I have broken some but there are many still left to break. I think this is an ongoing, life- long process. You keep pushing against the ceiling and expanding your context. I am sometimes amazed at how resilient, irrepressible and UNBREAKABLE human beings are!

      Loved your heart- warming comment. You give me faith. Thank you.

  3. Ah! That is true – it is the mind that limits πŸ™‚ My problem is different – I do not think of things as impossible, just that I never really WANT anything badly enough to do something about it πŸ™‚ In other words, I’m fine if Scarlett Johanssen walks into my bedroom BUT am not sufficiently motivated to do something to get her there πŸ˜›

    1. Point noted Suresh. Just between you and me though, I doubt if Scarlett Johanssen would ever walk into your bedroom or that of our esteemed mutual friend Achyut. I am sure she knows she is no match for either of you hunks.

      On the other hand, dream on. πŸ˜€

  4. Pingback: Sunday Brunch (#6) | Serenely Rapt

  5. Just what I needed. That too on day when my mind was busy creating “barriers” and whispering doubts in my ears. I must realise that my only limitation is and always will be, well, me ! Thanks Dagny πŸ™‚ I suppose there was a good reason after all, behind the delay in me reading this particular post of yours.

    1. You know Sid, I was talking to a friend the other day about the doubts that whisper their insidious words into our ears. And I told her that one of these days I will write about the gods who flounder in self doubt while the clueless march with confidence and rule the world.

      You have given me a push into writing that post. πŸ™‚ Thank you…

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Connect with me!

Subscribe via Email

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 1,954 other subscribers.


Latest Posts