Run Your Own Sub-Four Minute Mile in the Race of Life

Sir Roger Bannister running the first sub-four minute mile in history

Associated press photo

I’ve been a coach in some capacity for decades now. I have worked with all ages and ability levels. During my coaching career, I’ve been blessed to meet many incredible people with heart, determination, and fortitude who display a never give up attitude.  

I’ve also met individuals at every level that give up just on the brink of a personal breakthrough. They stop believing, give up, and let the barriers of their past control their future. My heart goes out to these people the most because they give up on their dreams a couple of steps from the finish line. Their breakthrough is so close.

As a coach, you live to see your athletes do their very best, reach their potential, and come through in the most difficult of circumstances. It really doesn’t matter if they are a ten-minute miler or a sub four-minute miler. You want people to succeed within their God given ability level. You want them to finish the race strong.

I’ve noticed that when a runner quits on the threshold of their potential, they generally quit in the more important things later on in life--like a tough job or their marriage. That is why it is so important to help our youth to never, ever give up on themselves. They need to know that “all things are possible through Christ who strengthens me”.

Participation in running is one of the greatest sports on the planet to teach kids (and adults for that matter) on how to overcome and persevere through life’s many challenges.

The first lesson a new runner needs to learn is “to never say no way”. They have to learn to believe in the possibilities of their ability. There is always a way to reach your goals in life within the ability that God has given you. It may not be easy; it may require sacrifice; it may not come quickly.

However, you can always build a stepladder to climb over the barriers that stand in the way of your most important life goals. God gives us the innate ability to reach our goals and dreams. It is up to each of us however to break the barriers of our past that stand in the way of our hopes and dreams. Let me Illustrate.

Just a few decades ago, track-and-field experts arrogantly declared that no runner could break the four-minute-mile barrier. It was said that a human being couldn’t run that distance that fast. The "experts" conducted all sorts of profound studies to show why it was impossible to beat the four-minute barrier. They had very detailed scientific data at the time that indicated a sub four-minute mile was physiologically impossible. And for years, the experts were right. Nobody ever ran a mile in less than four minutes.

But one day a young runner came along who didn’t believe the experts’ opinions. He didn’t dwell on their studies and their evidenced based 'data". He refused to let all those negative words and data points control his mind and spirit.

The young man trained hard, believing he was going to break that record. Sure enough, he went out on a cloudy day in England and broke the four-minute-mile barrier. He did what the experts said couldn’t be done. His name was Roger Bannister, and he made running history.

The bigger story behind the first sub four-minute mile is what Bannister did for other people. It wasn’t just about him. He inspired others to break through their personal barriers as well. When you dust yourself off and try again, you inspire others to do the same. When you give up on your goals, you’re not just giving up on yourself. You're robbing others of the opportunity to be inspired by what you've accomplished.

Back to the first sub four-minute mile story. Within a month, the Australian runner John Landy broke Bannister’s record. However, Bannister had the satisfaction of beating Landy at that summer’s British Empire Games in Vancouver. In a race billed as "The Mile of the Century," both runners ran under four minutes, but Bannister came in first at 3:58.8 to Landy’s 3:59.6. Now for the amazing part.

Within about ten years after Roger Bannister broke that record, 336 other runners broke the four-minute mile as well!

Wow! Something sure changed in the minds of the runners during that era.

Think about what Bannister accomplished for just a moment. For hundreds of years, as far back as we have records, nobody ran a mile in less than four minutes; then, within a decade, more than three hundred people from various countries were able to do it.

What happened? It was very simple. The barrier to running a four-minute mile was lodged in the runner’s minds and pierced into their hearts. For all those years, runners believed what the experts were saying. They were convinced that it was impossible to run a mile in less than four minutes.

Bannister was the rebel who believed it was possible. He overcame an incredible mental barrier that all runners had struggled with in the past.

I met Roger Bannister and John Landy at a special race commemorating their first dual sub four-minute mile in Vancouver, British Columbia in June of 1983. Several nationally ranked milers from the U.S. and Canada including myself were invited to run in a special "replay" race of Bannister's and Landy's "Mile of the Century" held 25 years earlier.

Bannister’s and Landy’s presence at the race inspired all of us to run our best. We all ran over our heads. Many of us in the top six ran personal best times that day. The race turned out to be one the fastest and deepest mile fields ever assembled on Canadian soil at the time. Roger Bannister's and John Landy's ground breaking run 25 years earlier and their physical presence at the race, inspired all of us to do our very best. 

The lesson: never underestimate the power of breaking a long standing personal barrier and how it positively impacts those around you to break their own life barriers.

You can break the barriers and set-backs of your past. All of us have a sub four-minute mile barrier in life. You may need to find a way to breakthrough a barrier in your marriage. You may need a miracle in your finances. Whatever the issue, believe that God can provide a way when there appears to be no way. Ignore the experts and the opinions of others and rely on HIM to help you run through barriers. Believe in your ability. Pick yourself up and try again. Run your race to win. Don’t settle for mediocrity.

No matter what you are struggling with today, never  give up or give in. Stay in your marriage and work it out. Don’t give into divorce. Break the “barrier” of past divorce in your family lineage. Love your spouse like you’ve never loved them before. Love them like Christ loved the Church. Build them up and stop being so critical of them.

My friend Pam use to say, "people are a packaged deal". How right she was. Learn to honor and respect your husband or wife and their strengths. Like a coach, help them overcome their weaknesses. Use positive boundaries and tough love if you have to but find a way to break through the barriers in your marriage that are getting in the way of true love and intimacy.

Keep looking for that job if you are unemployed. It is likely to be right around the corner. You may be on the threshold. Don’t give up. Get out and make your job to find a job. Do it from nine to five every day until you've found a job that works for you and your family. Give up the pity party and celebrate with a real party when you find that job.

Find new ways to market and advertise your floundering business. Specifically ask people to buy from you. Provide more value than the other guy. Identify a "first" in your business that no one else offers. Tell everyone why you are different and how your product or service is a better fit for them and then do what you say.

Continue to pray for your wayward son or daughter. Don’t give up. Pray hard for them in a way that you’ve never prayed before. Get alone with God and ask him for help. Love your children like Jesus loved us. Reconcile with your kids before it is too late. Pick up the phone now.

Win the race of life. Run through the pain. Persevere. Pick up the pace when you want to slow down. Be relentless in the pursuit of what is right and good.

Never give in. Never give up. Be the person you want your son or daughter to become. Don't worry about who is right, focus on what is right.

Break the barriers of your past. Run your own sub four-minute mile in the race of life.


Coach Weber

Philippians 4:13