Maybe you’ve heard this story before, but something about it really struck me this morning so I’d like to share.
For thousands of years – really since the beginning of running – nobody had been able to run a mile in under 4 minutes. When the record of 4:01 was set in the 40’s, it was held for nearly a decade. Hundreds of athletes were chasing the record and always came up short. Athletes, as well as many doctors and scientists, had resolved that this feat was simply beyond the limits of the human body.
It was impossible.
And then in 1954, Roger Bannister ran a mile in 3 minutes and 59.4 seconds. He was just a man, but a man who believed the impossible was possible. He defied the odds, and some might even say science, because he believed it was possible.
But that’s not the part of the story that really resonated with me.
Within 46 days of Bannister’s unbelievable sub-4-minute mile, a feat and record that people had literally been chasing for centuries, Jim Landry beat the record again. And within 2 months, it was beaten 2 more times. And then 16 more times over the next 30 years. This isn’t like other records in sports where advances in technology change the game. This is running: sport in its purest form.
So what turned the tables?
The power of this story for me isn’t the determination of Roger Bannister, it’s the self-propelling force he created just by proving it was possible. Not many of us can muster up the near-delusional belief in ourselves to do things that the world thinks are impossible. But when someone shows us that the impossible is actually possible, we begin to rise above our self-imposed limitations.
When Jim Landry saw it was possible, he decided he could do it, too. All those runners who followed suit just needed a little evidence to renew their faith and keep pushing the boundaries.
This is where I connect with the story. I feel empowered by being the example. I have never done anything novel. But knowing that I could be that real person, that working mom, that next door neighbor, that best friend, that might have SHOWED you what was possible…
That is BELIEVING.