Yesterday, 60 years ago on 7 August 1954 Roger Bannister and John Landy had a titanic tussle on the final day of the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, Canada, in a running race that became known as ‘Miracle Mile’. For those who don’t recognise the name Roger Bannister he is the first person to break the 4 minute mile, which he did a few months earlier on 6 May. But on the 7 August race both men broke 4 minutes. Breaking 4 minutes now while very good definitely doesn’t put you anywhere near elite level, in fact you’d be little more than an also ran.
Also on the final day of The Commonwealth Games in 1954 was the marathon which finished about 20 minutes after the ‘Miracle Mile’. Englishman Jim Peters entered the stadium about 17 minutes ahead of the second placed man, a certain winner. Except he stumbled and swerved around the track and eventually managed to collapse over the line…the wrong one. He had reached the same finish line as for the mile race, but the finish line for the marathon was about 200 metres further. He never finished and that was the last race he ever ran.
How could something like that happen? For a start in those days there was a rule that no water was allowed in the first 10km. Jim Peters took that a step further and didn’t believe in drinking water at all, in fact he only took salt tablets. The only surprising thing is that this didn’t happen to him before it did. He definitely wasn’t a novice. He broke the marathon world record four times in the 1950’s and was the first person to break 2hours 20mins, an achievement considered equal to breaking the four minute mile. He himself has said he was lucky he didn’t die that day, I say he’s lucky he didn’t die earlier in his career.
Today we know that it’s crucial to drink liquid for endurance events, especially something as tough as a marathon. As time goes by we learn and make advances and are surprised at how those before us did things. Perhaps one day we’ll be surprised that people weren’t as concerned with burning fat for energy as we are. It’s awesome for endurance sport as fat is a much richer source of energy than carbs and it’s obviously great for weight loss because how better to lose weight than have your body better able to use it. Basically we think we’re a step ahead of the rest as our whole reason for being is to switch your body to using your fat…and to “Make the switch’ in only 10 days.