Roger Bannister

Threading The Needle

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oxford bannisterThe first photo that appeared on this blog was at the beginning of September 2010, only a few days after I had committed to the journey.

The photo is taken in Oxford, outside of the running track where Roger Bannister broke the four minute mile as a record for the first time.

The story about Bannister is now well known in summary, or at least the bit about what happened after he broke the record. So the story goes, after he broke the record there was a flood of people who broke the record, now that some elusive so-called psychological barrier was lifted. This is no actually the case. Yes, there were people who broke the four minute mile after Bannister, but it hasn’t been many, and only men.

What is perhaps more telling is the process he used to break this record. It was only made possible with the help of fellow-runners as pacemakers. And this is a most interesting piece of no-so-trivial trivia.

I took this photo while in Oxford in 2009 during the conduct of an earlier ridiculous challenge that I had set myself: the 9 City Bridge Run, where I ran 9 sub-marathons in 9 cities across 9 countries inside of one month. The similarity between the two initiatives that the execution both times left a lot of room for improvement. The 10 City Bridge Run was ‘threaded onto this needle’ in making a patchwork of 100 stories by what I considered to be an unsatisfactory effort in 2009.

How did I miss this important factor in Bannister’s success? In fact, how does this one small fact escape all of our attention?! It is so elementary, yet critical to performance. The help of fellow-runners as pacemakers.

It is no good having those fellow-runners and pacemakers if you are either not listening to them or not communicating to them. It implies an intimate level of trust and teamwork. A common goal. A shared vision.

The good news is that the race is far from over. Bannister, must like others, must have tried dozens if not hundreds of time to smash this record with these pacemakers, or at least trained hard together in practice. Consider the stunt that this 100 patchwork tapestry that I am now blogging about as the practice, and the main event coming in the form of the Design Forum.

Will you share this same impertinent level of audacity that we can, together, smash a world record for the benefit of those most in need?

Delivering on the promise of improving child survival. First, we must know what defines the race, and secondly, how our performance will be measured. We are competing against ourselves, and we must succeed.

This is the second patch of 100 stories that defines the journey I have recently concluded. Leave a comment and let me know how you like my handiwork!


Inspiration- moving past barriers (pun unintended!)

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Bannister and Landy
Bannister and Landy- contest over one mile.

The words of Roger Bannister have served as an inspiration as I found the courage to move past discomfort and regain the confidence in picking up speed. He is quoted in Wikipedia having said:

The man who can drive himself further once the effort gets painful is the man who will win.

This journey is not about winning, but about raising awareness and overcoming what was once thought to be a barrier to action, that is the first of the objectives to the 10 City Bridge Run:

To raise the awareness of an individual’s capacity to act to positively influence the eradication of extreme poverty from our world.

The pun in the title to this post, unintended when drafting this entry, sums it up best. Not only is this about moving past, as is beyond, barriers that are thought to exist. More so, it is about moving, or better stated as “removing” past barriers- barriers that were once, but now no longer are.

What is holding you back today, and what are you going to decide to do now to make that barrier a thing of the past? Go on, we’re waiting…

Achieving the impossible…just a matter of belief and perspective?

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While running in Oxford last year, I passed the track where Roger Bannister broke the 4 Minute Mile in 1954. This was a surprise to me, as while I knew he had done that in the past, I didn’t know where it had occurred.

Stop and think just how much of the technology in our world today is made up of what was once considered impossible. The claim that a 4-minute mile was once thought to be impossible by informed observers was and is a widely propagated myth cooked up by sportswriters and debunked by Bannister himself in his memoir, The Four Minute Mile, 1955.

“This race made me realise that the four-minute mile was not out of reach,” Sir Roger Bannister, 2 May 1953 after running 4:03.6 and shattering previous 1945 standard record.

The complexity of extreme poverty is not something to just wish away. The human cost is staggering. The amount spent on aid across the last 30 years beggars belief.

This year is a critical moment to grip up the situation of extreme poverty affecting children in our world. The United Nations is committed to a 2015 timeline. The US has today announced the end of American combat operations in Iraq. The G20 Summit being held in Seoul can take a more informed view of the past and projected impact of the global financial crisis.

Five years might sound like a long time, but it will pass very quickly. There is a great sense of urgency with which we as a global village need to address this problem of seeking an eradication of extreme poverty looking first at a time horizon of 2015. It is one of many problems to address. In Australia, the state of Indigenous health and gap in life expectancy remains a disgraceful legacy of the past. The competing demands across our global village are so complex it is sometimes difficult to comprehend.

“Are you crazy!?” some people ask me about this global endurance challenge, recognising the difficulty in what I am seeking to undertake, just from a logistical perspective alone. I agree, it is definitely a “stretch goal”.

Is it possible:

  • to achieve the 10 sub-marathons inside one month
  • to successfully finance the journey
  • to coordinate the book “Above the Line” so that it is published in time for the G20 Summit
  • for a copy of the book to be delivered to each world leader attending the G20 Summit…

While these things might seem fanciful and far removed from the earnest consideration of the reality of extreme poverty, I believe they also are powerful ways to communicate the ability to achieve what is believed to be outside of our grasp.

I can’t do this on my own, and I seek your support. Please consider sponsoring the development of the book “Above the Line”. Together, we can make a difference.