Impossible, meet possible: Writing and running

If you think something’s impossible, that may just be because you’ve never done it before. Or seen it done.

Everyone thought a 4-minute mile was impossible. Then two men ran it within weeks of each other.

Roger Bannister (left) and Australian John Landy, the second man to run a 4-minute-mile (Photo: Paul Joseph)

Experts used to believe no one could run a mile in under four minutes. Until Roger Bannister did it in 1954. The four-minute mile barrier had stood for, well…since the invention of the watch, I guess. Unless some earlier race coach used an egg-timer.

But Bannister had his name on the record for less than two months, before another runner ran four minutes, too. The men’s record now stands at just over 3:43, or about 17 seconds faster than Bannister. (To date, the fastest women’s time is about 4:12.)

Running and writing

Now, I’m not a runner, although I did once spend an hour in proximity to a book on the subject. One writing teacher started the semester by plopping Jim Fixx’s The Complete Book of Running on her desk.

“Reading a book about running will not make you a runner,” she said. Being writers, we all recognized a good analogy when we saw one. Only one thing could make us writers: we would have to write.

Which I do, every day for myself, and at least five days a week for my clients. Neither rain nor sleet nor snow nor lack of internet connection will keep me from getting in at least 15 minutes of writing a day. It’s a ridiculously low bar, so I am delighted to jump over it consistently.

What makes it easy for me to do something every day that many people sweat and strain over? I know I can do it. So I do.

Why didn’t the second guy to run the sub-four-minute mile have to wait centuries to do it? Because Roger Bannister had shown that it was possible.

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