My daughter and son wrapped up their respective track seasons recently. Kya, a freshman, continued her journey as a pole-vaulter. And Everett, a fifth grader, tried everything because, well, that’s what they do in fifth grade. He competed at long jump, 100m dash and the mile. And ended the season with discus, 100m dash and the 400m. Wide ranging, but he got some good experience during his season.
Which got me to thinking: Ever heard of the four-minute mile? Its obvious definition is completing a mile run in four minutes or less. It was first achieved by Roger Bannister in 1954 with a time of 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. Bannister was an English neurologist and a middle-distance athlete. At the 1952 Olympics in Helsinki, Bannister set a British record in the 1500m race yet finished in fourth place. This strengthened his determination to become the first athlete to finish the mile run in under four minutes.
He took 2 years to train for this specific feat, attempting to break the barrier at a race scheduled for May 6, 1954 at the age of 25. During his training, he realized that his best chance for breaking the time barrier…was to have a pace setter. Even better…two pace setters. So, he trained with Chris Chataway and Chris Brasher and they would serve as the pacesetters and the motivation he’d need to accomplish the feat. That morning at Iffley Road Track in Oxford, Bannister ran with all his might! Once he crossed the finish line, the announcer declared “The time was three…”, and the cheers of the crowd drowned out the balance of his time, which was 3:59.4.
Pace. Pacing ourselves. Such a wildly important concept, but such an elusive one to accomplish. Go out too fast, and you’ll gas out, unable to finish the race. Go out too slow, you’ll never accomplish the goal. A fairly easy concept to comprehend in the racing world, but what about the game of life? Same rules apply, don’t they? Take starting a new business for example. No revenue plus no customers equals a great reason to get out there and sprint hard, to do the necessary work to get revenue in the door and food on your family’s table. Or engaging in a new volunteer activity. Your passion is to help, and you jump in with both feet. Or, for my younger readers, a new relationship. You desire to get to know the other person, so you spend a lot of time with them and/or thinking about them.
All of this is good, right? I mean, your business needs to survive and your non-profit needs someone to serve and your new girlfriend needs to have time spent with her. And to those points, I speak a resounding Yes! But, is there anything to be said about pacing yourself? Yes, you need revenue, but does it come at the expense of your family? Yes, you want to serve, but does it result in burnout? Yes, you want to get to know the other person, but does it crowd out other important relationships?
Point being, pace yourself. Don’t get ahead of your skis. Life is meant to be lived slowly. Rushing past it only results in frustration. Having a hard time knowing what the pace should be? Like Bannister, invite a friend or two to help discover the best pace. These accountability partners can help point out blind spots such as when your family might be suffering as a result of you spending too much time at the office.
As for Bannister, he went on to become a neurologist and Master of Pembroke College in Oxford. He retired in 1993. When asked if breaking the four-minute mile was his proudest achievement, he said he felt prouder of his contribution to academic medicine through research into the responses of the nervous system. Bannister was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2011 and died in 2018 at the age of 88.
Fast forward to today, and there have been over 1,600 athletes who have broken the four-minute mile barrier. Currently the mile record is held by Morocco’s Hicham El Guerrouj, who ran a time of 3:43.13 in Rome in 1999 when he was 24 years old. In order to accomplish that time, he had to run a sustained pace of over 15 miles per hour for an entire mile. Seems fast. Seems insane actually. He likely couldn’t have kept it up for another mile.
Neither can you. Pace yourself. Stop and smell the roses. Life is fast as it is, no need to gas out at the end. Engage some friends to help pace you along the way.
You were made on purpose, for a purpose.
Pace yourself as you live it today.