Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and


(1) BILL CROTHERS (William Fredrick Crothers, Born 24th of December, 1964 at Markham, Ontario where he was a pharmacist for many years)
   In the 1964 Olympic Final he burst past George Kerr of Jamaica, (440 yards Commonwealth Champion 1962) and Wilson Kiprugut in the straight, to follow  home double Olympic 800 Champion Peter Snell.
  Tokyo, 16th of October, 1964:First Six were 1 Peter Snell (New Zealand) 1:45.1 (An Olympic record); 2 Bill Crothers (Canada) 1:45.6; 3 Wilson Kiprugut (Kenya) 1:45.9; 4 George Kerr (Jamaica) 1:45.9; 5 Tom Farrell (USA) 1:46.6; 6 Jerry Siebert (USA) 1:47.0.
   I talked to Bill Crothers, after he had won the 600 and 1000 yards races in the Indoor Arena at Wembley Pool in 1963, the year before the Olympics but someone involved for the minor Olympic placings in Tokyo was WILSON KIPRUGUT of Kenya and he had this to say in 1965
   This was in 'Athletics Arena' and Edited by Charles Elliott
   "One week before travelling to Tokyo with the Kenyan team, I met Mal Whitfield who, after watching me run suggested ways in which I could benefit more in racing by using  my arms' correctly' . I suppose I must have thought a great deal about what he said afterwards, as nobody else had told me I was not using my arms properly before then. Now, through holding them a little higher, I find it much more relaxing by just letting the arms swing, that by trying to control the angle at which they should be held, which merely uses more energy, and channels concentration for the race in hand.'
   ' I was very surprised, and indeed overjoyed at getting a bronze medal in Tokyo, and I can remember thinking that after some of my team-mates were quite sick during their stay in Japan, and did not perform too well, that I must do my level best to make up for it by getting a medal. In the heats I felt that I was coming through just fine, and though I treated those races as if my very life depended on them, I found them less difficult than I had first anticipated.'  
         ' I will never forget the race. The weather was fine and warm, and I took the lead early on, in fact just as we came out the stagger, and ran for dear life -but feeling 'reasonably' relaxed I suppose - until with about 220 yards to go, Peter Snell raced past making me feel that I just wasn't running, with George Kerr on his heels. As they went past one of them touched me, sending me off balance a little. I just seemed to stop then, and looked right to see Bill Crothers sail past, but I just seemed to well-up inside seeing my chances slipping away, I suppose, and went for all I was worth after the other three, got near to Crothers, stumbled, as my feet seemed to just drag along the track, felt Kerr next to me, dipped -and it was all over. I was surprised to find that I had edged out George at the tape, that realising I was a bronze medallist, I became speechless, with a lump the size of a cricket ball in my throat; Ah, Memories!"
   Bill Crothers talked about his win in the 1963 AAU Final on March 28th  over 1000 yards indoors in Chicago
   "In the Fourth lap I slowed down a little too much , I was 11/2 seconds slower than I should have been, but the other 51/4  laps I was right on pace."
   It was interesting to hear who he admired of the 'Great' athletes at that particular time
   " Any of the World record holders. I have always admired quarter miler Otis Davis (Olympic Champion in a World  record of 44.9 on cinders, 1960 in Rome); and Jim Beatty is a remarkable runner, also Emil Zatopek and Bolotnikov; and especially Snell and Herb Elliott, who were far above the class of the other runners when they were competing."
   The Start:- Bill Crothers first came interested in athletics when he was 14 at school, where he also played soccer, American football and ice hockey. He trained with Bruce Kidd, the Canadian Empire Games six mile Champion and between twenty and thirty of the East York Track Club which are affiliated with Toronto University.
He was eliminated in his 880 yards heat in the Empire Games at Perth in 1962 when coming fifth in the Semi-Final in 48.2 but made rapid progress after that.
   In 1963 the year before the Olympics he explained to me about his training
   " We do different types of training through out the year. In the 'Fall' it is the heavy bulky training - repeating half miles, quarter miles and the occasional run either over 5 or 10 miles. Then we go indoors and start getting faster repeating 300's  and 600's, and do between ten and sixteen of those at night, and about 115 yards jog. Towards the end of the indoor season I do a little speed work, then do some cross-country running  up and down hills for a while, and in the Summer speed work comes in."
   Did he feel he had to make a lot of sacrifices?
   " By normal standards it is a sacrifice, but by our standards it is a ' Way of Life"

(2) RON CLARKE (Ronald William "Ron" Clarke MBE, Born 21st of February, 1937 in Victoria Australia. A Company Secretary for several companies at the time when I talked to him in Brighton in 1965 and, then we met in Edinburgh in 1970. To my mind a real 'Gentleman' to be greatly respected and in fact he eventually became the Mayor of the Gold Coast in Australia from 2004-2012).
   Unfortunately in Mexico he did not medal but suffered greatly with the altitude, which caused heart problems for him in later life. Something, so many serious runners, who obviously put themselves on he line so many times, suffer from in 'Older' age but in Ron's case it was the altitude that really got to him in the 10,000. He felt from what I read that to run against people like the Kenyans or Ethiopians, who have the advantages of running constantly at high altitude and, then coming down and blowing away the opposition at sea level; a sea level athlete would have to do something in some way to compensate for that!
               However, as I am talking in this series of medals gained at the Olympics Ron, obtained his in the 10,000 in 1964 in Tokyo.
First eight were:- 1 Billy Mills (USA) 28:24.4; 2 Mohamed Gammoudi (Tunisia) 28:24.8; 3 Ron Clarke (Australia) 28:25.8; 4 Mamo Wolde (Ethiopia) 28:31.8; 5 Lonid Ivanov (URS KGZ) 28:53.2; 6 Kokichi Tsuburaya (Japan) 28:59.4; 7 Murray Halberg (New Zealand, the Rome 1960 Olympic Champion) 29:10.8
8 Tony Cook (Australia) 29:15.8.

   Ron Clarke looked back at his best races he did in 1970 at the end of his career " The 10,000 metres in Tokyo. I  think I ran that race as well as my fitness allowed, and that is really the aim of any athlete. For my state of fitness then I ran more than 40 seconds faster than I had done three weeks earlier, and had broken everybody. I got more absorbed in the real tactical battle than in any other race, before or since'
He added " What would have given me the greatest satisfaction of all, I think would have been the 1968 Olympic race - if it had been held at sea-level - because I was fitter than I had been in 1964. My fittest period, my 'peak' was between 1965 and 1968."
BILLY MILLS, Half Sioux Indian (A a wonderful film was made of his life called 'Billy'), had some interesting things to say about the race itself when I met him in London in 1965
" Before the race started I had made up my mind to go with the leaders. I knew almost certainly Clarke would be one of those and counted on Halberg being up there too. Once Clarke moved I was prepared to go with him. Even so, I was not prepared for such a fast first 5000 (14:04.6) but once everybody else dropped and I was still there, it was merely a matter of hanging on. I hung on for a couple of laps by the skin of my teeth then it started to come easy and I actually felt I was as much in control of the race as Clarke, even though he led most of the way.'
   Of the last lap - I saw the battle on the back straight in the Stadium in Tokyo-- between the first three.
  Billy carries on- ' I think Clarke, finding himself boxed in, as  we were lapping a runner. He was at my shoulder, panicked momentarily leaving himself one of three choices. 1 He could have stopped and come round; 2 He could have speeded up and pushed through (I would not let him get ahead because I had him on the inside but I was not doing anything illegal); 3 He could have pushed me out. As I say, I think he panicked momentarily and did push me out because, let's face it, he must have been scared as I would be in his position, that he might lose the race then and there'
'I was bumped, but I am quite sure in my own mind that it was unintentional. Gammoudi must have been in a similar position as Clarke but seized the opportunity more readily as, seeing the gap as Clarke bumped me wide, and just as I was about to move in on Clarke again, Gammoudi, with his momentum unimpeded, did the only thing he could do other than stopping dead, and flashed ahead between us.
' Ron Clarke said " I think the move that won the race was when Billy Mills got knocked back behind. Straight away he " Hit the  trail on us" To my mind anyone who comes off the bend with two blokes in front of him has a tremendous advantage. Billy was knocked when he was already going pretty hard for home, I think, and it put him behind in what proved to be the most advantageous position"
   To my mind Ron Clarke was the 'Greatest' distance runner never to win a gold meal at a Major Championship. However, he broke 19 world records. Nine of those was in 21 days in 1965. It was in 1965 at the White City I saw him break the 3 mile World record. It was the first time someone had been inside 13 minutes for 3 miles (The first 3 in that on the 10th of July were :- 1 Ron Clarke 12:52.4, 2 Gerry Lindgren (USA) 13:04.1; 3 Lajos Mecser (Hungary) 13:07.6;).
Ron gained four silver medals in the Commonwealth Games. I thought I would list those
1962 (Perth, Australia 3 miles 1 Murray Halberg (NZ) 13:34.2; 2 Ron Clarke (AUS) 13:36; 3 Bruce Kidd (Canada) 13:36.4.
1966 (Kingston, Jamaica 3 miles 1 Kip Keino (Kenya) 12:57.4 2 Ron Clarke (AUS) 12:59.2; 3 Allan Rushmer (England) 13:08.6.    6 Miles 1 Naftali Temu (Kenya) 27:14.21; 2 Ron Clarke (AUS) 27:39.42; 3 Jim Alder (Scotland) 28:15.4. (Alder won the Marathon ).
1970 (Edinburgh 10,000m 1 Lachie Stewart (Scotland) 28:11.71; 2 Ron Clarke (AUS) 28:13.44; 3 Dick Taylor (England) 28:15.34.
   Ron Clarke about his start in athletics. Charlie Elliott edited my copy originally on his start in the sport and his training advice that was for Athletics Arena magazine " At school although I always competed in cross country events and sprints, as well as playing football and cricket, I had no idea that I would one day take up athletics and arrive at the spot I am in today (Talking to me in 1965) In those days you see, my main interest was in cricket and football (His brother was a good footballer and as a youngster ran well).- I always won my races at school, but I think that was mainly because I was bigger than anyone else at the time, I did not start training though for the sport until well after I left school"
   His training in 1965 back in Australia " My training consists mainly of long runs, sometimes I train alone other  times with Trevor Vincent and Tony Cook,. Each Sunday there is quite a 'school' of us training together. I used to run for Melbourne High school Old Boys, but switched to Glenhuntly because there was a much stronger interest in distance running. I reckon we must have (In 1965) the best distance running club in the World for, besides myself, there is Pat Clohessy, Trevor Vincent, Tony Cook and John Coyle all of whom can run inside 13:35.0 for 3 miles.'
   ' I do not train to the watch in training. When I was young, yes, but then I was being coached by Franz Stamfl and that is his method. Every athlete is different and it cannot be said that they can all train to the same method. Nobody can train like I do because they are not me. The best coach trains each athlete according to his needs, taking  into consideration physique, personal needs, attitude and other interests. If you are coached by someone then it is imperative that you believe in them and their methods completely. This way, complete confidence is built up, and a real partnership, so necessary to full achievement, evolves. You have got to be able to talk with your coach on equal terms, not be dominated. An athlete must be able to think for himself. He is there to guide your judgement. It is necessary to discuss with the coach anything that is not fully understood so that both athlete and coach agree. Anyway, for myself, I lead a perfectly normal life, going to shows etc., and at no time does athletics involve sacrifice."
 Looking back in 1970 who did he feel were his toughest competitors?
   ' Kip Keino has great talent at 1500, and I would have found him hard to beat. Jim Ryun, too, would have been a hard man to break.Of my nearest rivals I think Michel Jazy of France was the hardest competitor.
(A race they did was over 2 miles on the 23rd of June 1965 First Jazy in 8:22.6; 2nd Ron Clarke 8:24.8 It was a World Record for Michel)

(3) RALPH DOUBELL AM (Awarded the Australian Medal. Born 11th of February 1945. Now Head of Relationship Management and a Director and Divisional Head of Corporate and Institutional Banking of the Deutsche Bank Group of Australia)
   Ralph had an unusually 'See Saw' set of 'Championship' results, as an 800m runner, for one reason or another.
1966 6th Commonwealth Games Final in Kingston in 1:48.3 (Just behind Chris Carter the British Policeman 1:48.1)
1967 1st in the World Student Games in Tokyo in 1:46.7 ahead of Franz Joseph Kemper and Bodo Tummler of Germany.
1968 1st Olympic Games in Mexico in a World Record of 1:44.3.A time still on the books as an Australian all time record in 2012,
1970 6th in the Commonwealth Games Final in Edinburgh in 1:47.8.
However in this series we are talking of Olympic Medals gained
First Six:- 15th of October 1968 at  Mexico City 1 Ralph Doubell (Australia) 1:44.3; 2 Wilson Kiprugut (Kenya) 1:44.5; 4 Tom Farrell (USA) 1:45.4; 4 Walter Adams (West Germany) 1:45.8; 6 Joseph Plachy (CZE-European Junior record) 1:45.9.
   Ralph told me in Mexico that he got off the plane with a swollen achilles tendon, which did not auger well but fortunately it went down for his first race for six months, which was the Olympic First round Heat. " The first round felt reasonably comfortable, but I did not know just how much I had left in me" (He won in 1:47.2). " The Semi-Final race line-up was a tough one compared with the first one won by Adams (1:46.4) and I took it very easily for the first part. I did not feel too good but moved up from the back of the field to about fifth or sixth on entering the home straight on the first lap. Kiprugut led through in 50.8, and then on the back straight I thought I had better move up to 2nd or 3rd place but suddenly found that I was in the lead, and without much effort. I felt very easy, and was surprised at the time announced as 1:45.7. This gave me confidence at last. I knew just what I had got to do now in the final--provided that my strength would last out. I was still fairly frightened that I might fade out in the race because of altitude effects'
   'The race in the final worked out just as planned; for me anyway. Kiprugut (3rd in Tokyo 800) hammered off at the start and I settled in mid-field at the break-in on the back straight; I say mid-field, but we were al pretty close to Kip and a mid-field position was not more than four or five metres behind him. I relaxed and took the first 600 fairly easily and then again as planned; moved up to Kip's shoulder into the final bend then, when I hit the straight I just put everything into it for an all-out effort. That last straight seemed to last forever. I could feel Kip fighting very strongly at my left shoulder as we approached the tape. I was just lucky, I feel, that my plan worked out perfectly, and that no-  one got in the way. If they had have done maybe I might not have made it.'
   'As Kiprugut ran the first lap in the final in 50.8 and I did 51.5 that, I would say is fairly fast, and when one has to add another lap of about 52 or 53 onto that it is getting on for a two lap sprint. The secret of being able to do this is purely that of having sufficient strength built on stamina to maintain the pace as evenly as possible throughout the race. For me the main ingredients in my training that have developed this capacity in me is interval training and weight training. I personally train (running-wise) ten times each week--when everything is going well, that is-- twice a day four times a week generally Monday to Thursday; once on a Saturday.and Sunday--plus weights. So you see there is quite a lot to being a top-class athlete ; it's not really just a simple progression from a 2:06.0 man to winning the Olympics title purely on natural ability. I would say I was not blessed with any more natural ability than the average person. A great part of training and racing is psychological .One needs an overriding desire to succeed--The will to win."
   When Ralph was 16 he was introduced to athletics upon entering High School. " I used to run the sprints but as I never won a race my time was not taken." After a year of that he decided to try the longer distances, 440 and 880yards, clocking 53.00 and 2:05 to 2.06. In 1963 he started a little training and that season dipped below two minutes with 1:59.6. Then he went to Melbourne University where he came under the influence of Franz Stamfl (The coach to the first four minute miler Roger Bannister), and during the remainder of that season he lowered his best to 1:54.8.
   'Then I started taking things a bit more seriously and, with the help of Stamfl I started regular and systematic training for both the quarter and half mile. I lowered my best to 1:49.8 for 800metres and was regularly under 50.0 for 440yards, but much faster on relay legs.'
   Before the Olympics Doubell's training went well until August with normal interval training of 20x440yards,10x 880, 30x 220 and 50x100 but his achilles tendon gave him trouble and he was not able to run in spikes for six weeks before the 15th of September when the team left. ' On that day I put spikes on and had a time trial over 440yards and clocked 49.9 there was no pain--I had passed the test. A week before I had run a 3/4 mile trial in warm-up shoes and was timed at 3:01.8. Everything worked out right with just days to spare." This was from extracts of my interview edited by Charlie Elliott in the 'Athletics Arena Olympic Report of 1968'.

(4) RODNEY PHILLIP "ROD" DIXON (Born 13th of July 1950 in Nelson New Zealand)
For those interested in sport in the 1970's, it would be difficult to imagine someone not knowing about three handsome New Zealander's Rod Dixon, John Walker and Dick Quax, with their all black colours, flashing round the tracks of Europe.
  Rod had a vast range of ability. Going from a bronze medal in the Olympic 1500 in 1972 (His best time for the distance was in 1974 when he ran 3:33.9) to ' World' Track & Field News No 1 over 5000 in 1975.
It was In 1983 he won the New York Marathon in 2:08:59, from Geoff Smith (GB) 2:09.08.He also was handy at cross-country, gaining bronze medals in the World Cross Country Championships of 1973 and 1982.
   JOHN WALKER in 1983, prior to Rod's  New York event, said something  to me about the 'Great' transformation from being a 1500/3000/5000 runner to a marathon man and Rod won the Auckland Marathon in Auckland in  2:11.21 in 1982 and before going on to win the New York marathon    "  I think Rod Dixon can run 2:10 if he wants to. I don't think 2:10 is really that great a time. The big problem in the United States is that everybody thinks about the marathon and nothing else. I think you will  find that once the milers and 5000m turn up and run the road races, the road boys will be pushed right back to nothing. I think it is only a matter of time." A typical forthright and intelligent comment from such a 'Great' runner in advance of what happened.
   Now for the Olympic Medal Rod Dixon gained,although he got very close in 1976 over 5000!
Munich Olympic Final in 1972 for the 1500 First Six in the Munich Final on the 10th of September 1972
1 Pekka Vasala (Finland) 3:36.33; 2 Kip Keino (Kenya) 3:36.81; 3 Rod Dixon (New Zealand) 3:37.46;  
4 Mike Boit (Kenya) 3:38.41; 5 Brendan Foster (Great Britain) 3:39.02; 6 Dyrol Burleson (USA ) 3:40.0.

   Rod " I ran 3:40 in my heat to come first equal with Keino, which at that point was 3 seconds faster than my personal best. Then I won the semi-final against Vasala. Came the final, Keino kicked out with two laps to go and put in that 55 seconds lap which did so much damage to everybody but I felt that from 350 to 150m, when both Vasala and Keino really put the pressure on, that I in fact eased. I knew I had never run that fast at that time of the race so I almost gave away the prospect of chasing them and Boit then went past me on the turn and I thought 'right, I must start kicking for home.' I accelerated past Boit so fast and in fact was closing on Keino at the finish so I believe in my own mind if I had had the experience of racing then in 1972 that I have now I could possibly have done better. (Talking to me in 1975. The Editor of Athletics Weekly, that the quotes appeared in was Mel Watman one of the World's leading  athletics journalists  in the last fifty five years and there is no doubt about that in my mind).
    When did Rod have his breakthrough then?
     " When I was 18, which was my last year at school I won the 1968 New Zealand Junior mile Championship in 4:19. Four days later I ran 4:06 and that gave me the New Zealand Junior record. But the next year I bought an old truck and spent most of my time tinkering around with that. Of course my running suffered and I was left with the decision: should I continue in sport? It was at that time that my brother really did influence me and help me and I used to go training with him. Slowly and surely I was able to keep up with him more and more and accept a greater work load and at 19-20 years of age I decided that I did want to become a competitive athlete and I was prepared to accept the challenge that it offered.
   ' I pressed on and trained very hard. It was a slow process but gradually things started coming together and I made my first national cross-country team in 1971. The following year I trained for the Olympics and I ran my first sub-four minute mile on January 28th 1972. People said surely, as you got tenth in the International-cross country, that would indicate your capabilities are over 5,000 or 10,000--so why concentrate on the 1500! I said quite frankly I like to run the mile. If I had been forced into running the '5' or '10' at 21, I don't believe I would have been ready for it and mature enough to accept the stress. I was much too young to be thrown into running 5,000 so I elected to run the 1500/mile simply because of the Snell tradition and era, and one felt proud off the tradition. I gained selection for my country for Munich and everything was so wide and wonderful and it is incredible to look back now-how young I was.'  
 Did Ron always like to run?
   "As a kiddie on the farm which my grand parents had, I used to love running barefoot along the river banks and through the farm and in the grass an the lovely fresh clover, and it was fantastic. I think really from those early days I developed a love for the sport and it carried right through. A good thing that has come out of all is that I still retained my love of the countryside and my basic love for running, even though, obviously I have had hard days training. Even when I get so frustrated with the whole thing something is still within me to get out the next day and run to express myself. There is nothing better than going home and running through the hills and along the forest trails, the river beside you and the birds and the sun coming down. Sometimes I would raise my arms in the air and say ' Isn't this just absolutely fantastic,' and I look down at my feet pounding along the road and I become so excited by the whole atmosphere: this is real enjoyment." (These days in 2012 Rod Dixon is content to help others achieve things in their running and advised training groups.. In recent years he has been a Director of Training at the Los Angeles Marathon.)

(5) DAVE WOTTLE, (Born August 7th 1950, was sensational at the Munich Olympics in the 800m Final in 1972 coming from last place after 500m, to snatch victory on the tape. His trademark was the cap he wore which gave him nicknames like 'The Head Waiter' or ' Wottle with the Throttle' . On the 1st of July 1972 at Eugene in the Final Olympic Trials which was a 'First three Past the Post Policy' for representing the USA. The result was 1st Dave Wottle in 1:44.3 which equalled Ralph Doubell and Peter Snells' World record. In second place was Rick Wholhuter (1:45.00) and third Ken Swenson in 1:45.1) .Rather than wait let us see what Dave said to me in the Olympic Village about the AAU Championship "Basically it went the same as all my races. I stuck behind and simply kicked down the straightaway. It was a competitive race for me and I like that type of race when I can rely on my 'Kick' Not really much different to the trials it was more or less just stick on the guy's shoulder till the last 100 then 'Kick like Crazy'
   In the Olympics the second event he did was the 1500 for the USA but, he left it too late in the Stadium. His special brand of magic did not work, as he came through too late and only got up to fourth place in the Semi-final in 3:41.6  and, therefore was eliminated but let us see how things were in the 800 Final. Here are the names of the first six home on the 2nd of September 1972:- 1 Dave Wottle (USA) 1:45.86; 2 Yevgeniy Arzhanov (URS,UKR) 1:45.89; 3 Mike Boit (Kenya) 1:46.01; 4 Franz-Joseph Kemper (FRG) 1:46.50; 5 Robert Ouko (Kenya) 1:46.53; 6 Andy Carter (Great Britain) 1:46.55.
   " The first heat was O.K. I got second and qualified, more or less eased it in. The semis were kind of hairy because I was boxed in with 100 yards to go. It looked very bleak for me and I thought I might have had it as I could not get out. All of a sudden lane 1, where I was in, opened wide because the guy who was in front of me, Franz Joseph Kemper, went out into the second lane to move Plachy out, and he left the first lane open. I accelerated through the hole and placed first in the semis. In the final I was almost in last place the whole way, playing a catch-up game.'
   ' Everybody was my big danger because I did not feel that good coming down the stretch. I was more or less just trying to get a medal 100 metres out. With 50 metres to go I was trying for 2nd place, trying to pass the Kenyans; then 20 metres from the finish I saw Arzhanov was slowing or tightening up so I tried for the win. I knew it was going to be close.'
       Dave Wottle as a young person was advised to take up running for health reasons.
' It was in my Freshman year in high school, in Ohio, They were having a track meet so I decided I would try something. I signed for the 100, 220 and 440. They were all sprint races because I did not know anything about distances. I was 14 years old at the time and after a few workouts the coach saw I was not a sprinter but that I could stay up with the distance men in 2 mile jogs. So he just put me in with the distance men-half milers--and my first race was an 880 and I ran 2:13. It was not too good but I got 3rd place"
   ' Mel Brodt at college was my coach and was still at the Olympics. He uses the 'Moderated Marathon System' that Snell used and he is a very good coach, very intelligent about track. He plans all my workouts and I have  great faith in his judgement"
   He ran for Bowling Green as he got a scholarship for that College . As it was a small college it benefited Dave Wottle as he did all sorts of events in one afternoon, which gave him resilience and he started the season with about 120 miles a week in September than slackened off to 90 to 100 but took a month off before starting the track season.
 Then the training was ' Monday a distance day when we do mile and 2 mile repeats. Tuesday is a speed day; we'll do 440 stuff. Wednesday--A pace day; we will do various things from 330 to 660's Thursday--we start slackening off. Friday--we slacken off. Saturday we have races
   'It was almost that way every week because we have races every Saturday or Friday. At Bowling Green meets I might do the mile and half, plus a mile relay. Maybe one meet I may just do a 3 mile. I usually do the mile, half and relay triple because it gets the most points for our team and it does not really bother me that much as I am used to running 3 races in one day .They are all within 45 minutes off each other."

(6) LASSE ARTURRI VIREN (Born July 22nd, 1949  followed in the tradition of the ' Flying Finns' led by that outstanding runner of the 1920's Paavo Nurmi, who achieved nine gold medals in which four were individual one's which was the amount that Lasse Viren also achieved. Viren's were over 5 & 10k in Munich and Montreal)
Munich 3rd of September 1972 First six:- Lasse Viren (Finland) 27:38.35 World record), 2 Miruts Yifter  (Ethiopia, who won the 5 & 10,000 in Moscow in' 80) 27:40.96; 4 Mariano Haro (Spain) 27:48.14; 5 Frank Shorter (USA who won the marathon) 27:83 and 6 Dave Bedford,(Who took seven seconds off Viren's record the following year at Crystal Palace (GBR) 28:05.44.
   Lasse Viren " The most dangerous was Putteman's, Haro a bit, and there was someone else but I can't remember who now. '
   ' I  had a good feeling, everything was going well.The main thing was for me to be in the leading group. When I fell over I did not know what had happened, I realised someone was falling over me and I thought the main thing was not to be spiked so that I could continue. I do not remember anything of what actually happened; I just wanted to continue. I caught the others and then went into the lead."
Munich 10th of September 1972 First Six:- 1 Lasse Viren (Finland) 13:26.42, Olympic Record; 2 Mohamed Gammoudi (Tunisia) 13:27.33; 3 Ian Stewart (Great Britain) 13.27.61 4 Steve Prefontaine (USA) 13:28.25; 5 Emiel Puttemans (Belgium) 13:30.82; 6 Harald Norpoth (FRG) 13:32.58.
   " About two laps before the end I had the feeling I might win.'
   ' The most dangerous were Puttemans., Stewart and McCafferty were dangers I thought'
' I had planned after 3000 I would lead, then I would start to run fast but all the other runners were around me so I did not have the chance to lead and I had to wait. So it was with three laps left that I started to pass the other runners and make for the lead position  . Prefontaine was leading. I knew all the time they were there. I knew Prefontaine was going to run very fast but it did not work because I thought it was just Prefontaine talking."
Montreal 26th of July 1976 First Six:- 1 Lasse Viren (Finland) 27:40.36; 2 Carlos Lopez (Portugal) 27:45.17;
3 Brendan Foster (Great Britain--The  only medal for the UK at the Games) 27:54.92; 4 Tony Simmons (Great Britain) 27:56.26; 5 Ilie Floriou (Romania) 27:59.93; 6 Mariano Haro (Spain ) 28:00.28.

As this was a long time after I talked to Lasse Viren, I thought, I would put someone else involved in the race for medals in the pole position
BRENDAN FOSTER who was third and what he told me in London at the end of the 1977 season and I thought he must have been a favourite with his 'Great' record in the Big Championships between the Olympics?
" I don't think I was really such a hot favourite, except in Britain, because Viren obviously was the one He had run faster than me and was Olympic Champion and in good form, so he was really the favourite. He is such a great athlete and such a tough competitor when he wants to be- '
Viren's comment on that score in 1973, after coming seventh in the Europae Cup in Edinburgh " I like to run even though I know I won't get along very well. I like to race anyway."
   Brendan "The thing is I did not run as well in that race as I know I can and I did not race. Normally, when I run, however I run, I at least race against the people and the thing in Montreal was I was hanging on and then got dropped. That was probably the hardest I have ever run so I was disappointed but pleased with winning a medal. and also very pleased with the effort I was able to put in. At the end of the day it is what pleases yourself. It does not matter what other people think really as that dies down after a few days.. Then you are left with yourself,your own thoughts. you know what happened, how it went for you- can't fool yourself, you always know! Sometimes you have run a  race and you know you  have chickened out, instead of putting everything on the line, and other times you look back and say that was a good race.I was pleased with it."
   I might just add here that between the Olympic Foster won the European in Rome in 1974 in 13:17.2; from Kuschmann of East Germany who did 13:24.0 and Lasse Viren was third in 13:24.6,
About that Brendan Foster had this to say " That was one of my best races ever as I was running really well that day. The conditions were against good running as it was scorching hot and I ran 13:17.2, so looking back that was probably one of the highlights of my career. I led from the start and I did not see anybody else.'
Montreal 10th of July 1976 First six:- 1 Lasse Viren (Fin) 13:24.76; 2 Dick Quax (New Zealand)  13:25.16; 3 Klaus Hidlenbrand (West Germany) 13:25.38; 4 Rod Dixon (New Zealand) 13:25.50; 5 Brendan Foster (GB) 13:26.19 and 6 Willy Polleunis (Belgium) 13:26.99.
   In this case I thought I would bring in Dick Quax and his take on the race
DICK QUAX " I had a virus which I actually got the night before the final of the 10,000. I had spent most of the night over or on the. toilet.'    ' I still had not recovered properly from my stomach virus the day of the race but I was so fit'
   ' It put more pressure on me because people at home said "There goes Quax--he's blown again" as they did not know the full story and I got a bit of a rubbishing from our not so-knowledgeable TV commentators back home. I felt there was a little bit of extra pressure on me as a matter of fact.'
   ' In the final my problem was I had all my confidence knocked out of me by my illness. I remember at one stage  early on it was very slow and in some ways I was thankful for that because I think it the pace had been hard all the way, I would probably have been dropped off because I just was not strong any longer after the illness.
After about five laps Brendan Foster looked to me as though he was going to throw in a 59 or 60 quarter. He went for  half a lap, looked round and saw everybody was still with him and I felt he sort of threw it in a bit. I thought to myself--Thank God!'
   ' I felt if a break had been made at that stage I probably would not have been in contention any longer.
   Something to me is of great interest was Quax take on the Olympics and one must also remember he came second to Kip Keino in the 1970 Commonwealth 1500 in Edinburgh.
   " The Olympic Games show the best man at that event on that particular day against that particular opposition but that's all. It's unfortunate that is what, at the end of it all, everyone gets judged on. When, at the end of the day, you hang your spikes up, this what they say--"That is how good he was". Very few individuals get judged on anything else."
Some other things about Lasse Viren when I talked to him with his interpreter from the Finnish Federation, Pirkko Hannula in Edinburgh in 1973
  " I started running in 1967. I decided on my own to start. There were no athletes who influenced me. I began at Myrskyla athletics club running 1000 and 3000 races'
   'It was in 1969 that I won the Finnish Championships for the first time (14:10.2) .'
' In the European Games in 1971 I was pleased to get into the final of the 5000 I fell over in the 5000 final and maybe if I had not fallen I would have come fifth or sixth and got a point for Finland.' He was 7th in  (13:38.6) and 17th in the  10,000 (28:33.2).
   ' About being coached:- ' Rolph Haikkola is like a Father to me. We communicate very well. He is not only a coach but much more.'
   'My training at the beginning was not so hard  and it was not so much. I did not then need to train as much as I do now (About 75-80- miles a week). I ran 200 kilometres a week before the Olympics in 1972  and, my best time to train was six o'clock in the evening. As a policeman I work in the day. I travel about driving a police car and I have to be in the office too. I work seven hours a day.'
   ' Regarding his ground work training in the Winter " Usually on the road or cross country. On the road in the Winter  because there is much snow  and one cannot get into the country--It is very cold then we do not have races until April"

(These words from Viren were in with my interview published in'Athletics Weekly'. On the front cover of the  magazine for  October 20th 1973 was a picture of David Black winning a track race. He was the second fastest 10,000m runner in the UK at he time. Also on the cover was the banner headlines 'Interview with Lasse Viren")

Alastair Aitken

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