A Few Books for Your Mental Training

So, for most of us, it's Week Five of staying at home and practicing social distancing.Yeah, I know, it's a bit nuts being cooped up and staring at your friends on a computer screen. And the Netflix binge has got to be drying up by now, right?

I imagine - I hope -- many of our state's track and field athletes are getting out to run, walk, bike...or whatever form of exercise you can find. It's in our DNA to move. Physical activity is our lifeline; it's the juju that builds our confidence, makes us strong, gives us courage, improves our outlook on life.

That said, this pause in our lives is a great time to also build your mental capacity, so I've compiled a list of books that I think will bring you inspiration and help you to build that fire within.

Let's start with the man who gets my vote as the greatest distance runner ever from the state of Kansas...

Lessons of a Lakota, by Billy Mills

Mills won the 1956 Kansas Class B state championship in cross country running for the Haskell Institute, now known as Haskell Indian Nations University. He later attended the University of Kansas where he was a three-time NCAA Division I All American in cross country.

But he's best known for his remarkable comeback win at the 1964 Olympics in Tokyo where he came from several yards back in the final lap of the 10,000 meters to out-sprint Mohammed Gammoudi of Tunisia and pre-race favorite Ron Clarke of Australia for the gold medal.

He is the only American - ever - to win Olympic gold in the 10,000 meters. He ran more than 50 seconds faster than he had ever run to win that day.

In Lessons of a Lakota, Mills writes about a young Native American boy who is despondent over the death of his sister and fears that he will never know happiness again. He receives a gift from his father, a scroll with seven pictures that holds the key to self-understanding.

Mills walks the reader through traditional Native American beliefs of meditation, dreams and respect for the harmony and balance of nature, and incorporates the principles of positive thinking and self-awareness.

The book's publisher, Hay House, writes: "This book will teach you about yourself, show you what it means to be happy, and lead you on your own personal journey to inner peace."

List price? An Ebook will set you back just $3.99. Look for it online.

The Perfect Mile: Three Athletes, One Goal and Less Than Four Minutes to Achieve It

This is the remarkable book by Neil Bascomb that includes a look at the track career of Ashland, Kansas native Wes Santee and his thrilling rivalry with Great Britain's Roger Bannister and Australia's John Landy.

The three men had a series of head-to-head competitions leading up to and following Bannister becoming the first man ever to break the four minute barrier (3:59.4 on May 6, 1954 in Oxford, England).

Landy clocked 3:58 just six weeks later. Santee never quite broke the barrier, running a personal best of 4:00.5 in 1955, though in June 1954, he set the world record in the 1500 meters with a time of 3:42.8 -- a time equivalent to a sub-4:00 mile.

In Kansas, Santee - who passed away in 2010 -- is royalty, and this book is well worth the read to learn more about the man and his relentless drive for excellence.

I found the book online for $9.99 on Kindle, $14.99 for paperback. A good investment in motivation.

In Quest of Gold: The Jim Ryun Story

No list of Kansas greats would ever be complete without mentioning Jim Ryun, the Wichita East star who became the first high school athlete to run a mile in under 4 minutes when he clocked 3:59.0 at the 1964 California Relays.

Before his prep career was done, Ryun ran 3:55.3, a national record that stood for 36 years, and thrilled the Kansas state meet crowd when he won the 1965 state championship in a time of 3:58.3.

He won three NCAA indoor mile national championships, and one outdoor championship competing for the University of Kansas, and in 1966 set world records in the mile (3:51.3) and half-mile (1:44.9).

In Quest of Gold details his remarkable career, including the onslaught of criticism he received after finishing second to Kenya's Kip Keino in the finals of the 1,500 meters at the 1968 Mexico City Olympic Games.

Be careful on this one: Some sites list the book for upwards of $70-$80, but with a little online searching, I found it for a bargain -- $3.99 to $4.69.

A couple others...

For inspiration, check out Deena Kastor's book titled, Let Your Mind Run: A Memoir of Thinking my Way to Victory. I read the book on a plane ride out and back to Sacramento last December and it was a page-turner - I just could not put it down.

A bit of transparency here: I was living in Alamosa, Colorado in 1994 when Kastor first moved there to train with legendary coach Joe I. Vigil. The three of us actually had breakfast one morning, a little more than a week after Kastor moved to Alamosa, and we've been friends ever since.

So, I certainly am a bit more interested in her story than some, but I am convinced you will find inspiration in her mind's journey of looking at athletics not as something to be feared, but rather something that can be enjoyable even at the highest levels of competition.

At one time, Kastor held American records in every distance from 5K to the marathon, during which time she transformed her mind to cultivate positivity. Her common-sense approach to positive thinking is something that athletes at all levels can benefit from.

One more book suggestion for your stay-at-home pleasure: Run Fast. Eat Slow. by Olympic silver medalist Shalane Flanagan and Elyse Kopecky.

If you are an athlete, you need to eat, and you better eat right. This book - and the sequel, Run Fast. Cook Fast. East Slow. -- has quickly become a go-to source for fun foods that are healthy and will power the body up for workouts and competition. Simply, it needs to be in every athlete's kitchen.

How about some more suggestions? Send me your favorite running books and a line or two and I'll work them into this column in the future. Those books with some sort of Kansas angle are appreciated!

On to other things...

It was just three years ago today, April 19, that I witnessed the greatest girls' distance race in Kansas history.

Girard's Cailie Logue, Shawnee Mission Northwest's Molly Born, and Lawrence Free State's Emily Venters lit up the crowd at the Kansas Relays with a performance for the ages in the 3200 meter run.

For many Kansas track and field fans, all I had to do was list those three names and you already know what I'm talking about. Likely, you have your own recollections of the famous race.

What I remember was that Born powered to an early lead, running with great confidence, while Logue and Venters hung on for the ride. Then with a lap to go, Logue, who had looked fatigued, unleashed a mighty chase, closing in 70 seconds to catch Born with 50 meters to go.

Logue (a three-time class 4A champion) finished in 10:09.97, while Born (the two-time class 6A champion) was the runner-up in 10:10.64. Venters (who also won two class 6A titles in the event while in high school) was third at 10:16.61. All three runners smashed the previous Kansas Relays record by 20 seconds or more.

The race sent all three runners into the national spotlight; their times were the fifth, sixth and eighth best in the country at the time. Two weeks later, they were at it again, matching up in the 1600 meters at the Shawnee Mission North Relays, where Logue won again in 4:45.0 - nabbing the top time in the U.S. at the time - while Born was second in 4:48.87 and Venters third at 4:49.36 (No. 6 and No. 8 in the country at the time).

All three girls have earned NCAA Division I All American honors in cross country - Logue at Iowa State, Born at Oklahoma State, and Venters at Boise State (she now runs for the University of Colorado).

This week in Kansas track and field history

Here are a few more memories from past years:

In 2015, the Barrier Breakers Invitational in Lawrence was rockin'. The 400 meter finals featured a photo finish in which Braxton Lewis of St. James Academy clocked 49.93 to edge Blue Valley Southwest standout Noah Green (50.20). Christi Lemunyon of Blue Valley West may have turned in the top effort in the girls' meet when she cleared 12-6 to win the pole vault.

Also five years ago, Olathe North's boy won the 4 X 100 at the Shawnee Mission West Invitation, clocking 42.81. And Allie Twietmeyer of Cheney threw the javelin 144-0 to win a great battle against Victoria Orth of Andale (136-0) at the Kingman Invitational.

Memories of Kansas Relays past

As we all know, the Kansas Relays were cancelled this year, but here's a look back at some of the great things we've seen at that meet over the years:

2011 - LeTristan Pledger of KC-Washington clocked 13.91 in the 100 hurdles, the second fastest time run by a Kansas girl this past decade.

2012 - Wichita South's girls clocked 3:55.71 in the 4 X 400 meter relay, also the second fastest time by a Kansas squad in the past 10 years.

2013 - Danie Plank of Gardner-Edgerton tossed the javelin 161-1.5, which was better than the Kansas all-class record at the time.

2015 - Caden Callaway of Pike Valley ran the second-fastest time by a Kansas boy this decade, finishing in 9:09.52 in the 3200 meters. Blue Valley Northwest's Sam Guinn was fourth in the same race, clocking 9:12.07.

2019 - Auna Childress of Lawrence Free State soared 40-9 in the triple jump. Childress is one of the Kansas athletes this year who our hearts ache for, having lost her senior season to the pandemic.