Today We Die a Little!: The Inimitable Emil Zátopek, the Greatest Olympic Runner of All Time
This is not the first or even the second biography to distinguish the famous Olympic champion, and it probably won’t be the last. Two aspects of Askwith’s work improve on what has already been written about this legendary track superstar.
First of all, this biography grapples with the legend itself, separating fact from fiction, and facing the hard truth of Zatopek’s failures off the field. Secondly, Askwith writes from the prospective of a runner himself. While Zatopek’s life story might be motivational reading for the non-running population at large, competitors for championships will find new inspiration in this story.
Zatopek’s world records have all been shattered now except for the triple gold he took in 1952, which has yet to be repeated. Nevertheless, Zatopek remains an outlier because he challenged runners to go beyond what anyone believed they could humanly endure. At Helsinki in the forty kilometer competition, just keeping up with Zatopek meant, “It was the first time that every finisher in an Olympic marathon had broken the three-hour barrier. The first fifteen finishers had run personal bests; the first nine had broken the old Olympic record; and the first twenty had run fast enough to have won gold at the previous Games”.
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