Last summer I read a book called Unbroken.
SPOILER ALERT: If you plan on reading this book, do not continue.
It was an inspiring story about a man, Louis Zamperini who was set to break the 4-minute mile record just as he was drafted into World War II. During a rescue mission, his plane exploded and he was left to float on a raft for 47 days, without water and only a single chocolate bar.
Rewinding back to his pre-war days, Louis was grew up in a poor family. He began stealing things and because of his natural speed, he always got away. As he grew older he began training not for food, but to cross the finish line first. He was relentless and determined. His efforts paid off and he ran at the Berlin Olympics. Later he was awarded a scholarship to run for USC. While there he trained harder than ever before to try and beat the world record for the mile. This was amongst the beginnings of World War II. Despite his efforts to avoid the system, he joined the army in 1941.
1943 his plane landed, in pieces, over 200 miles off the coast of Palmyra. He, and one other were the only survivors. All they had with them was a small bag of provisions that ran out within the first week. After the second week all that was left was one bar of chocolate between the two of them for an unknown amount of time.
Here is where the mind of an athlete takes place. Louis rationed the pieces of chocolate to a set amount each day because they never knew when someone, enemy or not, would find them. A few nights later, he woke up, and his companion had gorged himself and eaten the whole bar. There was nothing left to eat, and only a sea surrounding them of undrinkable water. His companion died, after 33 days at sea.
They both were in the same withered, starved, and dehydrated condition, but the same mind that was able to control his hunger and ration a bar of chocolate was the one that held away death against all odds. Louis was finally rescued after the 47th day only to be put in a Japanese POW camp where he was brutally tortured in both mind and body. The guard made Louis do unspeakable things and specifically picked him out because Louis was the hardest to break. For example, a fatigued, ill, and physically depleted Louis was ordered to hold a heavy wooden log over his head for as long as possible. Louis held it up for 37 minutes.
Louis finally returned to the hands of America in 1945, after spending two years under the watch and harassment of the most feared prison guard in WWII.
This story summarizes the effect that mind over matter can have on one’s athletic and life success. In addition to his training, if Louis did not have the pure determination to succeed and survive, he may never have come close to his running accomplishments, and during his years at war he most likely would have succumbed to death early on. If he lived 50 years later and had the nutrition and training our athletes have today there is no doubt in my mind he would be great. But what sets him above all the rest is his mental strength to remain unbroken and surpass human limits.
Would you eat this after a month without food and water? and with no end in sight?