Racing Past

The History of Middle and Long Distance Running

Articles / 1950s

Brian Hewson

13th February 2011

BRIAN HEWSON: PROFILE1933 - 2022    This highly talented English runner emerged in the early 1950s as a world-class 880-Mile runner. Throughout his running career, which ended in 1960, he worked full-time. Nevertheless, he won 17 national titles, a European title and two silver Empire Games medals. He was also one the earliest four-minute milers. Beyond his undeniable athletic gifts, Hewson showed an early maturity that enabled him to dedicate  himself to running while developing a career in tailoring.

Chataway v Kuts 5,000: KUTS V. CHATAWAYLONDON, 13 OCTOBER 1954Great Races # 10 This famous 5,000 race took place during an international meet between London and Moscow at the White City Stadium in London. It was the first visit by a Russian team since 1878. These were the days before floodlights were developed, when movable spotlights, set up on the stadium roof, were used to highlight the runners in the gloomy evening. It was another classic front-runner-versus-kicker race. WR-holder Kuts (27) knew he had to run away from Chataway (23); Chataway knew he had to hold on to Kuts throughout and rely on his faster finish. Kuts had already shown that he was able to use pace variation to good effect; this, apart from a pure fast pace, is often the front-runner’s best weapon. And Chataway, of course, knew he would have to deal with this pace-variation tactic, having just been defeated by Kuts a few weeks before in the European Championships.

July 24, 1952, Helsinki, FinlandGreat Races #7 With six runners all thought to have a chance of winning, this Olympic final promised to be a dandy.  Herbert Schade, 30, of Germany had the best time over this distance in the 1952 season. The already crowned 10,000 victor, Emil Zatopek, 30, admitted publicly that the German was the one to watch. After all, the German’s best 1952 time was ten seconds faster than Zatopek’s. But there were many who thought that the Czech’s amazing competitive spirit would win out. Then the man who beat him in the 1948 5,000, Gaston Reiff, 31, was also in the field: if he could do it once, he could do it again, though perhaps that would be unlikely as he had not been in top form. Then there was the brilliant Algerian-born Frenchman Alain Mimoun, 31. He now had two Olympic 10,000 silver medals to his name, both behind Zatopek. He was in good form and had to be able to beat the Czech one day.  Finally, there were two young 21-year-old  Englishmen, Christopher Chataway and Gordon Pirie. Both were improving fast and both were capable of a big breakthrough.

Chepkwony, Anentia and Maiyoro: The First Kenyan Runners Kenyan runners first appeared on the international running scene in the mid-1950s. Since Kenya was at that time a British colony, it was natural that these Kenyan runners initially competed in Britain and in the Empire Games. Lazaro Chepkwony was the first, competing in the 1954 AAA Six Miles in London. There were two other trailblazers in the 1950s: Nyandika Maiyoro also appeared in the 1954 AAA Championships, as well as in the 1954 Empire Games, and Arere Anentia made his international debut in the 1956 Olympics. Both these runners had longer international careers than Chepkwony’s; Maiyoro competed until 1960, Anentia until 1962. Maiyoro was the most successful, finishing 7th and 6th in consecutive Olympic 5,000 finals . Anentia’s best achievement was a bronze medal in the 1958 Empire Games Six Miles. Between them, these three early Kenyan runners broke over a dozen Kenyan records from 1,500 to Six Miles. They were the warning sign of the tsunami of Kenyan distance runners to hit the running scene in the next decades; they set the stage for the great Kenyan runner—Kip Keino.

Chris Brasher

3rd June 2013

Chris Brasher Profile  1929-2003b. Georgetown, British Guyana Chris Brasher, the 1956 Olympic Steeplechase champion, is mainly remembered today for establishing and developing the London Marathon. He is also remembered for his work as a sports journalist for the Observer newspaper. He became a multi-millionaire through his sports-equipment business, later donating of lot of his wealth to protect large tracts of wilderness in Scotland and Wales. His many successes after his retirement from competitive running have tended to overshadow his remarkable achievements on the running track.

Chris Chataway

7th February 2011

Not quite as talented as Roger Bannister, the cigarette-smoking Chris Chataway relied heavily on his exceptional determination to become one of the most respected runners of his generation. While the general public remembers him as the main pacemaker for the first four-minute mile, the more informed remember him for his epic 5,000 victory over Vladimir Kuts in a world-record time. “I beat Vladimir Kuts and helped Roger Bannister to break the four-minute mile,” he said years later. “In sport, it is stories, not statistics, that matter.” (The Pacemaker, No. 93, 2003).

Derek Ibbotson

17th March 2011

PROFILE: DEREK IBBOTSONb. 1932   Huddersfield-born Derek Ibbotson personifies Yorkshire grit. Not blessed with the basic talent of some of his rivals, he more than made up for this with his determination and courage.  I have an enduring vision of him training with Alan Simpson at my local track: there was a hunger in his pained face, a desperation in his ungainly running action. Did anyone train as hard as this? Ibbotson wanted success badly, and he was willing to make the necessary sacrifices. Herb Elliott, in his introduction to Ibbotson’s book Four-minute Smiler, wrote that “Derek’s greatness comes from his competitive spirit; the will to excel; strength built into him from years of hard cross-country running; and the accompanying ability to drive himself to the limits of endurance.” (FMS, 12)

Santry Mile, Dublin, August 6, 1958Great Races # 12 Using the prestige of Ron Delany’s Olympic 1500 gold medal in Melbourne, Billy Morton, a 48-year-old optician who was secretary of Clonliffe Harriers, organised the building of Santry Stadium in Dublin. The famous En Tout Cas company, which had built the Melbourne, Cardiff and White City tracks, was hired for the job.  They used a base of 9 inches of ashes from the local Guinness factory and on top 3 inches of their own secret formula of clay, shale and sand. The track was hard and spikes came out of it cleanly.

Emil Zatopek

18th February 2011

PROFILE: EMIL ZATOPEK 1922-2000        The word legendary is overused in journalism, but it is surely an appropriate adjective to describe this great Czech runner. It would also be appropriate to say that he was universally admired and respected. Going to see him race, as hundreds of thousands did, was an unforgettable experience—from his fierce competitive drive to his agonized running style. And although an aggressive competitor while racing, he was the epitome of a gentleman off the track, as many have recounted.

Frank Sando

10th August 2011

Profile: Frank Sando1931-2012  In the 1950s Frank Sando was the premier cross-country runner in the world. No other runner came close to his record in the International Cross-Country Championships (the forerunner of the World Championships). Between 1952 and 1960, this English runner from Kent finished six times in the top three, winning twice. On the three occasions he wasn’t on the podium, he was ninth, fourth and eighth. But this remarkable and consistent record is not the full story of Frank Sando’s running career, for he was also successful on the track with two Empire medals and one European. Furthermore, he had a fifth place finish in the 1952 Olympic 10,000 final. And it is worth remembering that he was able to run at world level for nine years while holding down a full-time office job.