Bannister’s genius told him what was most importantthe conditioning of the mind until it would “release in four short minutes the energy I usually spend in half an hour’s training” (Bannister, 1955, p. 184).
In his preparation Bannister reduced the race to its simplest common denominator400 m in 60 seconds or multiples thereof. He trained until running 60 seconds a lap, 24 km/hr, became automatic. “In this way a singleness of drive could be achieved, leaving my mind free from the task of directing operations so that it could fix itself on the great objective ahead” (Bannister, 1955, p. 184).
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And when he achieved that great objective at Oxford’s Iffley Road track on May 6, 1954, Bannister’s unique experience allowed him to write one of the most significant paragraphs in the running literature:
Though physiology may indicate respiratory and cardiovascular limits to muscular effort, psychological and other factors beyond the ken of physiology set the razor’s edge of defeat or victory-and determine how closely the athlete approaches the absolute limits of performance. (Bannister, 1956, p. 224)
That few runners or their coaches have ever grasped the implications of what Roger Bannister said is shown by an almost total dearth of material about the mental side of training and competition. To correct this, we will compare Roger Bannister’s intuitive approach to mental preparation for racing with the approaches suggested in other modem blogs that I found to be useful (Garfield & Bennett, 1984; Kauss, 1980; Liebetrau, 1982; Nideffer, 1976, 1985; Orlick, 1980; K. Porter & Foster, 1986; Rushall, 1979).