There’s a lot of talk about the greatest moments in running, and they usually centre around Olympic gold medals or world records.  But some of the finest, in my opinion, are more obscure than that…………….

  1. Paula pushes Paul: Paul Evans, a 2:08 marathoner, tells of a session in the French Alps when he struggled to keep up with Paula Radcliffe. “I can’t let this girl beat me,” he kept muttering to himself until they reached the top of the climb (and Paula allegedly collapsed.) Paula also deserves a place in this list for her world record for conducting the fastest interview after setting a world record (Chicago 2002.)
  2. Eamonn high: Eamonn Coghlan had been fourth at successive Olympics (at 1500 in 1976, and at 5000 in 1980.) When he finally knew he was going to win a global gold – in the 5,000 metres at the first World Championships in Helsinki 1983 – he didn’t wait until the finish to celebrate. At the start of the home straight, before he had even passed the Russian leader, he clenched his fists and looked skyward, giving heavenly thanks for his ultimate victory.
  3. Bedford’s double: on 7th February 1970, Dave Bedford, while still a junior, won the Southern Senior and Junior Cross-Country Championships in the same afternoon. He had a rest of about 20 minutes between the races, and won the senior by 55 seconds and the junior by 61 seconds.
  4. Ronoburger: Henry Rono, breaker of four world records in 1978, once misjudged the timing of his indoor two-mile race. The starter called the runners to their marks while Henry was still finishing his burger and cola. He put down his lunch, won the race, but missed the world record by two seconds!
  5. Not half bad: Steve Jones ran 1:01 for the first half of the 1985 Chicago marathon. He slowed down, and eventually missed Carlos Lopes’s world best (2:07:12) by one second. Jones had set the previous world record the year before at Chicago.  Jones would also do things like winning two local 10km races in the same day.
  6. Bullet Bob: Bob Hayes probably reached the fastest ever speed achieved by a human in his last leg of the 1964 4×100 metres relay. Michael Johnson may have run a flying 9.20 for 100; Bob ran well under 9. When an American colleague of Hayes’s talked up their chances before the race, his interlocutor said, “But all you have is Hayes.”  “Man, that’s all we need,” came the reply.
  7. Flying Kiwi: Derek Turnbull, a 65-year-old sheep farmer from Invercargill, New Zealand ran 2:41:27 at the 1992 London Marathon. He didn’t train for weeks on end during lambing season, never stretched, never paid any attention to his diet (“just lots of dairy”) nor wore a watch during training.
  8. Zatopek’s curiosity: the training session that is most famous in running circles is when Emil Zatopek ran more circles than anyone else. His 60×400 for successive days is the stuff of legend. Only a fictional character (in ‘Once a Runner’ by John L. Parker) has ever dared copy him!  Zatopek allegedly pushed this up to 100×400 eventually.
  9. The longest kick: records are made to be broken; but they are usually only broken by degrees. When Haile Gebrselassie ran 5000 metres at Zurich in 1995, the pace was good up to 3,000 metres (7:44). But then Haile kicked and ran the last five laps in five minutes to reduce the world record by eleven seconds.  The previous record holder, Moses Kiptanui, who that night had just become the first man to run under 8 minutes for the 3,000 metres steeplechase, when asked what he thought of Geb’s feat, said: “Oh, he’s pretty fit at the moment.”
  10. The man who could do anything: on July 26th 1974, Steve Ovett then still a junior of 18, turned out for his club and ran four races, the most impressive being a 21.7 200 metres on cinders. He was UK Junior Cross-Country champion at the time! In later years, Ovett would do things like winning a half-marathon if his 800 metres race was cancelled.  Oh, and he won Olympic 800, European 1500 and Commonwealth 5000 metre golds.