Short Story Review: ‘Miracle Mile’ by Alexander MacLeod

Story Title: Miracle Mile
Collection/Anthology?: Light Lifting (Jonathan Cape)
Date Read: 2nd February 2012
Briefly: As professional distance runners Mikey and Jamie routinely prepare for an important race, one of them drops a bombshell on the other which could affect their long-term friendship forever.
Afterthoughts: Any thoughts that I had about setting my expectations too high ahead of reading this collection, were quickly dispelled after reading this first story. Miracle Mile is breathtaking, and in so many ways.

Not only does one get an almost physical sense of the anxiety and stress that accompanies the build up to a professional distance race, one also gets a clear insight into the routines and levels of long-term commitment that are needed, in order to be able to compete in the sport at its highest level. It helps of course that MacLeod was a distance runner himself – he’s clearly brought a lot of his personal experience to this story – but it’s his language more than anything, and his ability to tell a story with so much clarity and vividness, that really brings this tale to life.

There’s a particular scene in Miracle Mile when the narrator (Mikey) recounts the time at high school when he and Jamie used to race through a railway tunnel, ahead of freight trains. This scene is incredibly well written, and so profoundly described with so much tension, that it’s simply unforgettable. I perhaps make it sound as though this scene is the highlight of Miracle Mile, but it’s not. Fact is, the story as a whole is a highlight, from its ‘biting’ opening where the athletes distract themselves from thoughts of the upcoming race – by watching one of sport’s most grisly moments i.e. Tyson ‘surgically’ removing part of Holyfield’s ear in the ring – through to the thrill of the race itself, and its aftermath. And all topped off with some icing on the cake – an ending that nobody would be able to see coming. Fantastic!

Rating: ★★★★½

This story was read as part of a review of the Alexander MacLeod short story collection, Light Lifting. If you want to find out more about this collection then I invite you to pop along to my forethoughts post for this title. I also encourage you to make a trip over to the publisher page for the book.

About Rob

Rob, a self-confessed bibliophile, is without any hope of rehabilitation. He gets unnaturally excited over anything book-shaped, and if book sniffing were a crime then he would have been locked up years ago (which wouldn't bother him in the slightest provided his cell was lined with books).