Book Reviews: Roger Bannister's Life And Mike Fleet's Coaching Chronicles

Book reviews: Roger Bannister’s life and Mike Fleet’s coaching chronicles

To mark the 70th anniversary of the sub-four-minute mile, a new book on Roger Bannister’s life is packed with great info and images, plus we look at ‘Don’t Crush the Eggs in Your Armpit’

There have been a number of books over the years on Roger Bannister and the sub-four-minute mile but this latest biography entitled Roger Bannister: Athlete and Philosopher by Peter Whitfield is a worthy addition.

Book reviews

It traces Bannister’s rise from university champion to world celebrity as the man who in 1954 broke through the four-minute mile barrier, a feat which was compared to the conquest of Everest as a landmark in human achievement.

Bannister was a superb natural athlete, but more than that he went on to become a doctor, a scientist and master of an Oxford college. He was a writer and a philosopher, who upheld the ideals of amateur sport. He devoted much of his later life to encouraging sport at grass-roots level.

The book also contains a rich number of photographs ranging from pictures of Bannister’s childhood through to his university years, the Helsinki Olympics, family life as a married man and finally as an elder statesman of sport and Master of Pembroke College in Oxford.

The photographs include Bannister acting in a drama society play, receiving a AAA half-mile trophy from the Queen and mountaineering in the Alps. There are also, of course, a number of photos from the iconic sub-four-minute mile itself at Iffley Road too.

The book is well written and researched but the large number of photos – more than 100 – are the book’s top feature.

The price is £16 post free to order from the author at [email protected].  

Don’t Crush the Eggs in Your Armpit

Mike Fleet is part of the fabric of British athletics. As an athlete he finished fifth in the 1962 Empire Games 880 yards final won by Peter Snell. Since hanging up his spikes he has been an avid coach, photographer and supporter of athletes at a multitude of domestic and international events.

Given this, he has developed a vast knowledge of the sport and has channeled it into a new coaching book with the quirky title of Don’t Crush the Eggs in Your Armpit.

A level 4 coach, Fleet covers every single track and field event in brilliant fashion in this book. He may have been known as a middle-distance runner, but after firstly gaining knowledge as a PE student in Loughborough, the Croydon Harriers stalwart enjoyed a long career as a teacher and technical athletics coach – since 1961 no less – and has a fine understanding of field events, sprints, hurdles, race walks and relays.

Outside his coaching and writing, he helps look after the NUTS (statisticians) archive and has an Olympians Charity Art Project in support of Cardiac Risk in the Young.

There are very few up-to-date books that cover the training and technical elements of all the track and field disciplines. And Fleet’s book does a great job at pulling all of these many elements together.

No stone is unturned as the book has chapters on every discipline, with chapters for events such as steeplechase and combined events and so on, plus there are sections on how to create a training plan, diet and how to combat illness and injury.

The book is illustrated with a nice selection of images, some of which are by Mark Shearman, with some great graphic illustrations by artist Alice Chandler.

Mike Fleet (right) with athletes in 1967

Best of all, the book is a fun read. It doesn’t take itself nor the sport too seriously and makes a fine effort at presenting the technical training elements of track and field in an off-beat and reader-friendly fashion.

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