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Emil Zatopek

Yesterday in the radio 4 programme Great Lives presented by Matthew Parris, Arthur Smith advocated Emil Zatopek. To those that do not know, Emil Zatopek (1922-2000) was one of one of the greatest middle distance runners of all time, certainly in terms of records. He set 18 world records between 5k and 30K and won 4 Olympic golds and one silver. He is most celebrated for winning the 5,000 and 10,000 metres in the Helsinki Olympiad and then the Marathon, a race he ran for the first time, all in 8 days. The programme covered all this and the rather sad culmination of his life. He supported the Dubcek anti Soviet regime in 1967 but later recanted in the pro-Soviet regime of Hasek. This led to a certain ostracism when the Iron Curtain came down in the late 80s.

Two friends of mine dropped round for a cup of tea, one a youth champion and the other a dedicated runner. They both agreed that to win a marathon as a novice was little short of incredible. I told them that Zatopek jogged alongside Jim Peters and observed the pace was a bit slow. Peters tried to burn him off only to get cramp and retire and Zataopek or the “Bouncing Czech” won and broke the world record by by 6 minutes. There is a clip below.

One of my friends will be running from London to Brighton, 60 miles over the hills. They both run in half-marathons. The other, the ex-junior champion at 800m, said she noticed in one she had not been running about ten times of 1-20 were recorded way ahead of the rest. Further enquiry revealed the Kenyans had turned up. She trained with them in the Linford Christie stadium. I asked if it was down to altitude. No – she explained – their core strength is the stomach, they slant their torso forward and use that power not in the legs. She said it was incredible to see these small wiry athletes blow away their bulked-up British competitors. I am not a huge follower of athletics and frankly find the coverage of the marathon boring. However when you hear of the exploits of Zatopek or my two keen friends who compete in all sorts of weather in races against all sorts of athletes I am both overawed and highly impressed by the sport and its competitors .

See link here – ZATOPEK

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About Bernadette Angell

After cutting her journalistic teeth in Boston USA, Bernadette met and married an Englishman, whom she followed back to London. Two decades and three children later, they divorced. She now occupies herself as a freelance writer (credits include television soaps and radio plays) and occasional amateur gardener. More Posts