Review of The Race of the Century: The Battle to Break the Four-Minute Mile

The Race of the Century: The Battle to Break the Four-Minute Mile The Race of the Century: The Battle to Break the Four-Minute Mile
by Neal Bascomb
Middle School, High School    Focus/Scholastic    256 pp.    g
3/22    978-1-338-62846-3    $18.99
e-book ed.  978-1-338-62849-4    $11.99

In his latest nonfiction thriller, Bascomb (Sabotage: The Mission to Destroy Hitler’s Atomic Bomb, rev. 7/16) turns to the race to break the four-minute-mile barrier. “Running the mile was considered an art form in itself, requiring a balance of speed and stamina.” For decades, it seemed the four-minute mark was beyond human limits. Gradually, runners chipped seconds off the world record and, finally, it seemed that three men were poised to make history: Englishman Roger Bannister, Australian John Landy, and American Wes Santee. The 1952 Helsinki Olympics provided a showcase for all three amateur runners and proved to be a catalyst for each to make a final push for glory. Artfully drawing readers into the drama, Bascomb segues between the principal characters, fleshing out their personal histories, their setbacks and challenges, and their training regimens, running styles, and competition strategies. With much anticipation and acclaim, all three competitors eventually broke the four-minute threshold. Two advanced to meet in head-to-head competition, while the third, much to his disappointment, was forced to be not just an observer but a commentator for the live television broadcast. Bascomb interviewed each of the men, giving the suspenseful tale an additional level of detail and authenticity. An author’s note, bibliography, and source notes are appended; a photo insert appears in the middle of the book.

From the March/April 2022 issue of The Horn Book Magazine.

Jonathan Hunt
Jonathan Hunt is the coordinator of library media services at the San Diego County Office of Education.

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