For years, I’ve known that Roger Bannister ran the first sub-four-minute mile and that, after this historic accomplishment, other runners soon broke his record in large part because Roger proved it was possible.  What an incredible story right?  I love this tidbit of knowledge and have been inspired by it myself, but there was much I didn’t know.

The risk of not knowing the whole story behind great accomplishments like this is that it’s easy to assume they only come to people who are immensely talented and/or extremely lucky.  

We often see the accomplishment but not the gritty day in, day out commitment of people like Roger Banister.

I was curious to know more of Rogers’ story so I went to Wikipedia and learned that “Bannister started his running career at Oxford in the autumn of 1946 at the age of 17. He had never worn running spikes previously or run on a track”.  Interesting.  So how did he go from that to accomplishing “the historic feat [of running a Sub-4-minute mile] on 6 May 1954”?

That’s almost an EIGHT YEAR GAP between when he started running and when he broke the world record.  What was he doing during those eight years?  Wiki doesn’t go into a ton of detail, but I imagine he dedicated himself to a vigorous practice routine and made it his mission to be in constant competition with his own personal best. 

For thousands of reasons, Roger Bannister could have chosen not to train to run the fastest mile he could.  He was studying to become a neurologist.  To do that, he certainly didn’t need to emerge as a famous runner.  I would guess that certain friends and family even thought running distracted him from that sensible career path.  

I imagine Roger chose to embark on this adventure because something within him was nourished by attempting to perform this feat.  He created a huge challenge for himself and set out to prevail over it.

I can relate in a way.  I chose to become a professional speaker even though I have a pronounced speech impediment.  That pursuit has allowed me to deliver a TEDx talk, write a book, start a podcast, and speak to a great many audiences.  I was passionate enough about my vision to welcome the challenges that came with it.   

When it comes to setting new personal records we have a choice:

We can put in the time and effort to meet the challenges we want to surmount every day, striving to do our imperfect best along the way, OR we can pursue a different path.

I find myself emphasizing the word “OR” because breaking our own personal records is no easy task.  If it were, we’d be breaking them and setting new ones every other week.

It’s  worth noting that when Roger Bannister set out to break the mile record he didn’t know definitively that he could do it.  Maybe he was confident in his abilities, but confidence doesn’t spell certainty.

If we are to set new records for ourselves, we must attempt to break the ones we already hold, even  if we’re not absolutely certain we can.

So, as we find ourselves on the starting line for this fresh race of 2024, let me ask you:

What is the personal record you most want to break this year?

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JASON FREEMAN is a Professional Speaker and the proud owner of a Speech Impediment.  He is also the author of “Awkwardly Awesome: Embracing My Imperfect Best” and a Perseverance Coach.

He excites and encourages his audience to break through the barriers of their own limitations using a method he created, called “Doing your Imperfect Best ™”.

His Imperfect TEDx Talk can be viewed here.