Day 39 — I Ran a Mile in 5 minutes 34 Seconds (A 10.46% Improvement Over the Last 36 Days)

Today has been a phenomenal day. I woke up much later than I intended (7: 10 AM instead of 4: 30 AM). This was because I got home late last night, made a phone call, and then went to bed around 11: 30 PM.

During the yoga retreat that’s taking place this weekend I want to share a story of Roger Bannister, a woman from the introduction of the book Quiet by Susan Cain, and Terry Fox. In order to familiarize myself a bit more with Roger Bannister who ran a sub-four-minute mile, I read about him and watched his 1954 race.

For those of you who don’t know, a sub-four-minute mile was deemed impossible by runners and doctors before he broke through the limits of what was thought possible. Such a feat was deemed the “Everest Mile,” but it didn’t hold him back from his path to succeed.

Within years of Bannister breaking 4 minutes, dozens of other people did as well. As of today over three hundred people have been recorded as running a mile faster than 4 minutes.

36 days ago I ran a mile in 6 minutes and 12 seconds. My very best mile over the past few weeks was timed as 5 minutes and 49 seconds. I can’t seem to find the exact date that I ran this, but I want to say that it was over a week ago.

My very best mile in high school track was 5 minutes and 46 seconds. My very best mile came over half a year before that track run, in which I finished it in 5 minutes 34 seconds.

I don’t remember how many milliseconds that mile came in at, five years ago. I want to imagine that it was over 9 milliseconds, and that today I ran the very fastest mile I have ever run in my existence.

My Preparation

I prepared by stretching a bit. Years ago I used to stretch much more before running, I just haven’t gotten back into that habit. Then I patted down my shoes and said out loud “these are good shoes for running.” I felt how these shoes were ten times better than what runners had 50 years ago.

I patted my socks and said “these are good socks for running.” Then I patted my calves and said “these are good calves for running,” and continued up my knees and thighs. Then I patted my ankles and said “these are good ankles for running, go easy on them.”

I patted my hips, noticed some people coming towards me, and continued on without a care in the world for what they would think. I patted my neck and said that this is a good neck for running. Then I began to hyperventilate for about half a minute to oxygenate my brain and my body.

On Bannister’s video a commenter claimed that they ran a 5: 38 or some sort of insanely fast mile as a 5th grader. Before beginning to run I visualized that my competitor was this sort of runner. A kid younger than my brother who was half my size and a little bit over half my age.

I set my watch on the bottom left side of my hand. I didn’t want it on the top, because I would have to turn it to see it and that would cause my performance to dip as my left arm would have to be tilted three times throughout the run to understand how I was doing on time.

My Pace

Please disregard any small math inaccuracies. I’m going off my memory of my set pace.

I set my pace at 5 minutes 35 seconds. This meant that I had to run a fourth of a mile every minute and 23.75 seconds. After the first fourth, I looked at my watch. It said 1:10. Even if I was off in where the fourth of the mile place should have been, and I actually achieved a fourth of a mile in 1:13, I was at least 10 seconds ahead of pace.

This was extremely not good. It meant that I was at risk of tiring myself out and slowing down throughout the next 1200 meters. (400 meters is one lap, four laps is one mile).

By the half way point, I was coming in at 2 minutes and 40 seconds. If I was running according to pace I should have reached the half way point after 2 minutes and 47.5 seconds. Even if my halfway point was incorrect, I was still at least 5 seconds ahead of pace.

The trail I run is not even. At this point in the mile things become difficult. Throughout the mile, I had remained relaxed and effortless. I was inspired by the narration Bannister did over the video I watched earlier, in which he spoke of how surprised he was that there was no resistance in his legs in the first lap and the second.

I was inspired by how he was not a runner by profession. He didn’t feel that there was a career in running, but rather, he found it to be something that helps to be a well-rounded person. The day he ran the sub-four-minute mile he had come from work as a neurologist. Can you believe it?

We’re talking about a man that practiced half an hour a day, which is considerably less than what his competitors were spending on practice, and which is considerably less than what modern athletes spend on practicing when attaining the sub-four-mile.

I first watched his race at work. Then I watched it when I got home, before I went on my run. His voice was imprinted in my mind. The way he picked up pace in the third lap, and the way he shot past his opponents in the end of the race was phenomenal.

When I reached 75% point mark, I clocked in at 4 minutes and 8 seconds. My pace at this point should have been between 4 minutes 11 seconds and 4 minutes 12 seconds. I never really knew if the place I thought was 75% of my mile trail was correct, but today I understood that it was spot on.

I love being in a great running shape, to the point where I can measure distance and the accuracy of a measurement simply by the time it takes me to traverse it.

I knew that I was actually 3 seconds ahead of my pace. I knew that this meant I could actually make my final mile time goal of 5: 35 if I pushed forward and maintained my speed.

My mind didn’t have time to think whether or not I would actually succeed, for in that moment, my short and half-aged 5th grader opponent appeared. He’d been running by my side for a few feet but then he shot ahead of me. I saw a spot ahead of him, and I knew that was the spot I would gain on him again and he wouldn’t be able to catch up or pass me once more.

I drilled down on that spot and envisioned Canadians making a statue out of me as I passed him, just like they made a statute out of Bannister as he passed an opponent.

I passed the 5th grader. He was in the dust. I looked at the finishing marker of my mile. I remembered what I told myself before I started running.

I can puke, I can cry, I can die. All of that will be alright and I can do any of it, or all of it, only, and I mean only after I would reach the finish line.

I didn’t want to puke or cry, and I wasn’t motivated to keep running on the premise that I could do those things. However, I did imagine myself in the newspapers in a reality where I died after reaching the finish. In this newspaper reality there was some humor. I accidentally ran a sub-four-minute mile when using Bannister as inspiration to pace myself to a 5: 35 mile. In my mind’s eye, I laughed. My body on the other end was not laughing. It was gasping for air, gasping and gasping.

Somehow I knew I had made it as soon as I crossed the finish line and hit the stop button. I just knew. I looked down and was surprised.

I let out a “ahhhh!” yell, simply because I now had my lungs back and I didn’t have to conserve all my energy for breathing and pumping oxygen into my blood to power my muscles. I kept walking and felt amazing.

As I came home I wondered what else is possible. What have I thought is impossible for my mind? If it was possible for my body to put out such an amazing feat, with no real preparation into such a mile-time, what else is possible for my existence? What other time can I attain?

Just a few days ago, on Sunday, I had decided that I want to attain a 5: 30 mile within 31 days. It looks like I am 73% of the way there and it took a very little amount of time. I feel certain that I can attain a 5: 30 and am excited to see how that feels like for my body.

After the run I soaked both of my feet in ice water, one at a time. I didn’t realize it but my skin on my toes froze. When I was walking around I could feel a hardness in my toes and when I felt them, I realized that they were still iced 10–20 minutes after taking them out. In the shower I also let cold water run over me, but it wasn’t extremely cold. For some reason my hands went numb and I was worried I messed up my spine. I don’t think there’s any problem with my spine, although my lower back is giving me a lot of flaring discomfort.

The numbing probably came from holding my hands up and running them over my head, which caused the blood to not make it up to them since it was still stuck in my legs and other areas of my body. The cold water may have even kept my blood from rushing into my hands which were raised, for all I know.

I feel like I don’t quite know the impact of how tired and spent I am right now. I will likely know tomorrow.

Stay tuned!

Originally published at