Doctors and scientists said that breaking the four-minute mile was impossible, that one would die in the attempt. Thus, when I got up from the track after collapsing at the finish line, I figured I was dead.
- Roger Bannister
Four and a half decades ago, on May 6, 1954, a British medical student named Roger Bannister broke the four-minute barrier by running a mile at the Iffley Road track, in Oxford, England, in three minutes and fifty-nine point four seconds. I was just a little boy at the time, but I remember the Bannister's feat vividly. It literally shocked the sports world. For more than a century, athletes had dreamed about breaking the four-minute mile. It was said to be the Holy Grail of athletic achievement but was considered to be impossible achieve.
Doctors, scientists and physiologists not only alleged that the four-minute mile was impossible for a human being to run, but they also insisted that it would be extremely dangerous to the wellbeing of any athlete who attempted to break such a barrier. They contended that man could not run a mile in less than four-minutes! It was physically impossible. The heart, they said, was not strong enough to take the stress of such an endeavor and the lungs were incapable of supplying enough oxygen to keep up with the body's demand of such a stressful experience. They further contended that if an athlete would run fast enough to break the four minute mile his heart would give out and he would die in attempting such an idiotic endeavor...it was an impossible dream. Nevertheless, the quest to break the four-minute mile had been in full force for more than a century, and it involved the most brilliant coaches and the most gifted athletes in North America, Europe and Australia which in many ways reinforced the contention that the feat was indeed impossible.
As indicated, Bannister proved that the four-minute mile was not an insurmountable feat, and in the process he broke through a psychological barrier that endured over a century. Was Bannister the only man who was capable of running a sub four-minute mile? Obviously, for over a thousand year prior to his record, he was the only one capable of the feat. However, once he destroyed that psychological barrier (the four-minute mile is physically impossible), hundreds of other runners achieved the feat. (To date, 1074 runners have achieved the impossible dream accomplishing the feat an incredible 5000 plus times.) Was that because for over a thousand years, no human being was born with such ability? Certainly not, but they all were conditioned to believe that it was impossible.
Well, I'm here to tell you that nothing is impossible if you believe in yourself. I've learned over the years that there is no limit to human or athletic potential. We are unlimited possibilities. In fact, I'm convinced that nothing is hopeless, nothing is impossible, and that there are no boundaries for man. I'm also convinced that the power of the mind is God's greatest gift to mankind and that the secret to unlocking that power lies in belief. Belief, I contend, is the "deus ex machina" or the magic elixir that can transform a mediocre athlete into a world class competitor.
Do you remember what our Lord said in the Bible? If I may paraphrase a little, He said, "If you have the belief of a mustard seed and you tell a mountain to move, that mountain will move." If you believe in yourself, there's nothing you can't do. When people say something is impossible what they are really saying is that it is impossible for them. I don't care what people have told you, or what they think is possible; if you believe in yourself and work hard, you can become anything you want to be. Here is something that might interest you. Most of the people that I have met who have made the seemingly impossible possible were too dumb to realize that what they did was impossible. Like the Bannister, they did the impossible because they didn't know any better.
The truth is that we are limitless. We have the power to do whatever we want to do. Nothing is beyond the scope of man. There is nothing that is inconceivable, nothing is insurmountable, and there are no limits for man. Just look at what we have achieved in the last millennium. It is astonishing! We have literally gone from throwing stones to launching laser rockets, from crawling on our hands and knees to walking on the moon, from yelling at our neighbors to worldwide tele-communication...it is awesome what we have accomplished. And we are just in the embryo stage of our development. Believe me, in the next millennium, we will go into the stars, into new galaxies, into the heavens. Just you wait and see.
Many of life's barriers and obstacles come from within. Success is a choice to be chosen wisely because the choice you make today will determine your world tomorrow. The power to transform our lives, to make the dreams of today the realities of tomorrow, lies waiting within us all. Each and every one of us have the power to change our lives, mold our perceptions and shape our world. We have the power! In America, the greatest country in the world, we have unlimited opportunity. We are only limited by ourselves. In fact, the truth is that we are limitless.
Yours in strength,