The Dole 3 Miler and reflections on a lifetime of running
By Rev. Dr. George F. Dole and the organizers of the Dole 3 Miler
The Third Annual Dole 3 Miler—www.dole3miler.com—takes place on Saturday, August 6, 2016, 8am on the Mountain Division Trail in Fryeburg, Maine. Organized by the Fryeburg New Church Assembly, a Swedenborgian Church Camp on the right bank of the Saco River, just across the road from the Fryburg Mountain Division Trailhead, this race is the namesake of the Rev. Dr. George F. Dole, theologian, lifelong runner, and a native of Fryeburg.
In organizing this race, rather than create another traditional 5K, the slightly shorter three miles was chosen to celebrate George’s serendipitous participation in one of the most famous sporting events in world history: Roger Bannister’s historic Four-Minute Mile. George, who had been a strong half-miler at Yale, was then a graduate student at Oxford University in England. He had recently won the prestigious one-mile race for Oxford against Cambridge, earning him the invitation to participate in the now legendary May 6, 1954 one-mile race that would be the first successful attempt by a human to run a mile in under four minutes.
Now 85 years old, George has hinted that the 2016 Dole 3 Miler may be his last race. Hearing that, we thought it an appropriate time to ask him to reflect on his lifetime of running. Reluctant as ever to focus on himself, what follows is what he shared.
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MIND AND MILING
As the gap between my intentions and my performance widens, I find myself reflecting more and more on the mental side of middle distance running. The mile provides the ideal template, with its neat division into four quarters. In the Bannister mile, Chris Brasher was pacemaker for the first half (and another 220). The plan was to run the first quarter in fifty-seven seconds. Experience had taught the trio that anything slower than that would build into a time debt that would be virtually impossible to overcome, and anything faster would build up a similar stamina debt.
Brasher ran the first quarter in fifty-seven seconds, and Bannister remarked later that he had been so psyched that he would have run it disastrously fast and been totally spent after three quarters. It seems remarkable that Brasher could hit the mark so precisely, but any experienced middle distance runner can do the same. I recall a particularly vicious workout when the coach wanted me to run four sixty-second quarters within a space of ten minutes, and I had no trouble building up a slight "credit balance" so that I could start the fourth quarter with just one minute to go. Each quarter, of course, felt different, because the fatigue was mounting, but at some level I "knew" what a sixty-second quarter was.
That sense is delicate. It requires close attention to the signals your body is sending you—legs especially, of course, but also breathing, stomach, and upper body. Through most of the race, you can accelerate quite readily for strategic reasons, but the amount of energy necessary to sustain that pace mounts incrementally.
This is objectively undeniable, but objectivity doesn’t just happen automatically. It is cultivated by repeated practice, by having subjective impressions corrected by the objective watch time after time after time, because emotions affect our reading of the signals.
Two months after Bannister broke the barrier by four tenths of a second, John Landy broke it by two full seconds at a meet in Finland. Chris Chataway (who soon set a world record in the 5000 meters) was in both races. He was on Landy’s heels going into the last quarter, planning on letting himself be "pulled" for as long as necessary, and then taking over. This was a new experience for Landy—no one had ever stayed that close to him for that long, and he had a sense that it was now or never. He picked up the pace then and there, and maintained it for the entire last quarter, winning by about forty yards, with nothing left for a finish-line burst.
In The Perfect Mile (London: Mariner Books, 1994), Neil Bascomb wrote,
It was incredible to Chataway. Bannister had needed him and Brasher to carry him around the track for over three laps before he made his kick. On the other hand, Landy had managed nearly the whole race from the front and still had the reserve to finish with such speed. (p. 210)
Landy’s own "inner clock" was a bit off, as a matter of fact. He thought he might have run 4:01 or 4:02, and did not realize what he had done until the time was announced (in Finnish), the crowd exploded, and someone told him why.
You could scarcely ask for more compelling evidence of the importance of mind in miling. Brasher and Chataway did not physically "carry" Bannister for those three and a half laps. What they did, I believe, was relieve him of tension. He later remarked that he would not have believed that running at that pace could be so effortless.
I was in the Bannister mile because I had won the Oxford-Cambridge mile a couple of months earlier, barely edging out the Cambridge miler, Keith Marsden. I have quite clear memories of the last lap of that race, in which I faked Marsden into starting his kick too early, let him "carry" me until the home straight, and had just enough to get to the tape first (the timers could not separate us). I was following in the footsteps of Bannister and Chataway, and really wanted to keep Oxford’s string of mile victories intact.
Then came "schools term" the last eight weeks before the only examinations I would take. These were truly formidable. Twelve three-hour exams, morning and afternoon on Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. There were a few "minor league" track meets, so I opted to return to my first love, the half mile, and ran quite adequately in the half and the quarter, more out of curiosity than anything else. All I remember about my performance in the Bannister mile is the start—like everyone else at the Iffley Road track. I was much more interested in what was happening up front.
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Learn more about and register for the Dole 3 Miler at www.dole3miler.com. The 2016 race starts at 8:00am on Saturday, August 6 at the Fryeburg Visitors Center, Porter Road, off Route 113 in Fryeburg, Maine.
– George Dole warms up at last year’s race
– From George’s scrap book of the start of the race with Roger Bannister. George is in the pole position on the right