One ordinary man is chasing a dream: The four-minute mile
By PAUL SHIPPER
I live an extraordinarly ordinary life. I have an ordinary job, live in an ordinary house and have a relatively ordinary family. I go to work, come home, feed and bathe my kids, put them to bed, and then, if I'm lucky and don't have any work to do, have a beer and watch some TV.
On the weekends, I shlep my kids to their ballet classes and baseball games, birthday parties and lacrosse games. If my in-laws are available to baby-sit, sometimes the wife and I will go out with friends.
But I want to do something extraordinary. Not just extraordinary, epic. With a capital E. Epic. E.P.I.C., EPIC.
I want to run a 4 minute mile. More specifically, I guess I want to run a mile in under four minutes.
When I first thought of doing this about four years ago, I mentioned it to a friend at work, Rob, who is a runner. When I say he's a runner, I mean he is a serious runner. He and his wife went on a vacation during which they ran from Michigan to Minnesota. Or maybe it was Minnesota to Michigan, I don't know. But the point is, they started in one of the states and over a few days ran over 100 miles into the other state. For fun. So I mentioned my idea to him.
"Hey, out of curiosity," I asked, "do you think it's possible for someone like me, who has no significant track background, to run a four minute mile?"
"Someone" he asked, "or you?"
"Me. Do you think I could run a four minute mile?"
"No, that's impossible," he said. "That's crazy. Some of the best runners in the world can't run a mile that fast."
I realize that running a mile in under four minutes is almost impossible. Everyone to whom I have mentioned this idea has pretty much agreed on two things: 1) that I have no chance of accomplishing the feat and that I'm setting myself up for failure, and 2) that I'm crazy.
Now, there are a number of very significant obstacles, not the least of which is the fact that I hate running. I used to be able to run all day while playing a sport, but running, just to run? I hate it. It's boring, it's tedious and thoroughly unenjoyable. I'm 41, and while I doubt I would be the oldest man to ever run a sub-4 minute mile, time is not on my side. I'm not in bad shape, but I'm not in particularly good shape either. Also, my left knee almost always hurts, especially when I walk up stairs.
But, all that said, I want to try to run a mile in under 4 minutes. Rob suggested I run a marathon instead.
"I don't want to run 26 miles," I told him. "I want to run one mile, as fast as humanly possible."
I want to do it, and yet I realize that there is a much greater chance that I will not be able to. I want to see how close I can get. I want to do the undoable and run the unrunnable. Like Ahab chasing the white whale, or Don Quixote tilting at windmills, I will be chasing down a number. A very small and mythical number, to be sure, but one that is, in theory, attainable.
Now all I need to do is start running.
PART 2 - THE FIRST STEP
PART 3 - I'M GOING TO HURT
PART 4 - MY HISTORY
PART 5 - BECAUSE BETWEEN 40 AND 60 IS WHEN HEART ATTACKS HAPPEN
PART 6 - MY NEXT STEP, IN NEW SHORTS
PART 7 - GOING UPHILL
PART 8 - A COACH