Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Quality 800/880 runners 1938-2017 (part 2)

Quality 800/880 runners Part 2 (December 2017)

Andy Carter

Andy Carter’ best time for 800m was in 1973 when he ran to a UK & British all comers record of 1:45.1 at Crystal Palace. That day he beat the good South African runner, Danie Malan. It was interesting to note the following year in the same Annual AAA Championships, a young 18 year old dashed up the finishing straight to inch out Carter, who finished second. It was in the form of a future Olympic Champion, Steve Ovett, who ran 1:46.1 that day BUT behind Carter were some runners who made their names at the event. Byron Dyce (Jamaica); Mark Winzenreid (USA); Colin Campbell (GB) who ran a UK record of 1:46.1 in 1972; Peter Browne (GB) & David McMeekin.
Andy Carter was AAA’s 800 Champion in 1970, 72 & 73
Taking up the sport

“I was in the first year of grammar school; we had the end of year cross-country and I won it. However, it was not till I was 18 that I joined Exeter Harriers for cross-country. Came the Summer I was meant to be Captain of the school cricket team but Exeter Harriers said they had an athletics meeting on and would I mind running.
I told them I had never done any track work but I agreed to run this 800. I told my school teacher beforehand and he said to me ‘You can’t call yourself an 800 runner unless you can do under 2 minutes’ so, when I did 1:59 they all raved about it and it was a Devon Junior record or something. I thought then perhaps I should take up athletics, with Exeter Harriers”

Although Andy Carter was sixth in the final of the Munich Olympic 800 in 1972, the year before, he was 3rd in the Helsinki, European 800m Final on 12/8/71  1 Yevgeniy Arzhanov (SU) 1:45.6; 2 Dieter Fromm (EG)1:46.0; 3 Andrew Carter (GB) 1:46.2; 4 Hans-Henning Ohlert(EG) 1:46.9; 5 Peter Browne (GB) 1:47.0; 6 Jozef Plachy (CSR) 1:47.3;  7Joze Medjimurec (Yug) 1:48.4 & 8 Philippe Meyer (Fr) 1:50.9.
“I thought the only way for me to have any chance of beating Arzhanov would be to go very fast early on and I intended going through in 51 seconds.
‘With 300 to go Fromm went past me and seemed to cut in and slow slightly, which made me baulk my stride. As that happened Arzhanov went past very fast and then Fromm increased his pace and they broke away for a fraction, but with 150 to go Pete Browne came up on my shoulder which frightened me a bit and I started to leg again. Coming into the finishing straight. I did not think I would catch Arzhanov but I thought I may just get Fromm because he started looking round and strainng slightly’
‘After a 51.3 first lap I thought the time must be fast because when you are with people who have run under 1:46 and you notice they are quite tired as well, it must be a fast time. I looked up at the clock and saw 1:45.6, and I thought I might be under 1:46”
Dave Wottle

Dave Wottle was known as ‘The Head Waiter’ There was a reason for that. He wore a white golfing cap when he ran, which distinguished him from other two lap runners. particularly in the Olympic Final 800 of 1972. It was sensational, as, he was completely off the pace at the back in the final for over 300m. He made a little ground at the back straight and just behind the field at the 400m mark, when the lead was by Mike Boit in 52.3 but at 600 Arzhanov drifted into the lead in 79.3, when Wottle was moving up to fourth place. Arzhanov’s kick should have taken him clear but Wottle was moving so fast in the straight he caught him in the last strides, despite Arzhanov’s lunge for the tape, as he sprawled on to the track. Mike Boit was also finishing fast and also looked a possible winner, with 60 metres remaining but Wottle ‘with the throttle’ had done it with his fantastic run up to the finish. However ‘All that is gold does not glitter’ when you realised in the Semi-final of the 1500 Dave Wottle was 4th, after using the same tactics but only three were to qualify for the final. He did the same time as the third home, Tom Hansen of Denmark (3:41.6). So he missed out trying to obtain a medal in the 1500 but just lost out in that semi-final, which I was sorry to see from the stand at the Olympic stadium in Munich.
I was fortunate to recognise him in the village, after his 800 victory, without his cap and, we struck up a good conversation. Here is some of it
For the record here were the 8 finalists 1 Dave Wottle (USA) 1:45.86; 2 Yergeniy Arzhanov (SU) 1:45.89; 3 Mike Boit (Kenya) 1:46.01; 4 Franz Joseph-Kemper (WG) 1:46.50; 5 Robert Ouko (Kenya) 1:46.53; 6 Andrew Carter (GB) 1:46.55; 7Andrzej Kupczyk (Pol)1:47.10; 8 Dieter Fromm (EG) 1:47.96.

“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 so. 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 one where I was in, opened wide because the guy who was in front 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 semi.’
‘In the final I was almost in last place the whole way, playing a catch-up game. I almost did leave it too late
‘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 100m out. With 50 metres to go I was trying to get second place, trying to pass the Kenyans; then 20m 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’s training methods he explained to me
“These are the things I would use if I coached, and I plan on coaching & teaching.
Monday is 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’s to 660’s. Thursday –We start slackening off—Friday we slacken off—Saturday we have a race.’
‘It is almost that every week as we have races every Saturday or Friday, At Bowling Green meets I might do the mile & half, plus a mile relay. Maybe one meet I may do just a 3 mile.
I usually do the mile, half mile and relay as a tipple 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 of each other.”

Luciano Susanj

In 1974 the fastest 800m in the World was done by Rick Wohlhuter of the USA with 1:43.4 (0.7 converted for 880 yards) but the fastest ever by a European born in Europe, at that time, was by Luciano Susanj of Yugoslavia in 1:44.07; when winning the European Final in the heat of Rome. The same warm conditions I remember at the previous European Games in Athens in 1969.
Luciano was born on the 10th of November, 1948, at Rijeka.
In 1973 he was European Indoor 400 Champion.
He won the European Indoors over 800 in 1974 with 1:48.1.
The First 3 in the 800 Final in the summer of 1974 in Rome -1. Luciano Susanj (Yug) 1:44.1 2 Steve Ovett (UK) 1:45.8; 3 Markku Taskinen (Fin) 1:45.9;
Fiascanaro (A close second in the European 400 in 1971) led at the 200 mark in 24.5 and for the first 400 he ran 50.1, still well in the lead. Luciano Susanj took off quickly, just before the final bend.

Luciano’ feelings about the race
“I thought of my wife and my son watching me on television, and that inspired me. In the first moment I thought of the position I had.
When I saw Fiascanaro go for the whole 800 and do the fist 400 in 50.1, I knew he must ‘die’! I had  thought Fiascanaro and Ovett would be first home in the race but when I saw Fiascanaro’s tactics I thought it was not possible for him to finish first because he was too fast in the beginning.’
‘The European Indoor Championships at Gothenburg was the most dramatic for me. The lanes were narrow and I was ‘bashed’ so I fell behind’ and did not think I would move up to win that race’  
His start in athletics “I was 17-years old. I did athletics just for my amusement. I did not worry if I did not win. I just took part. I did not mind what time I did as I was young. I ran 51.2 for 400m’. Even though later he ran 45.9 for the 400, he did not think that was World class and changed to the 800.
About the European in Rome. What training had he been doing?

“My training is similar to the work I did for 400 metres -the 800m is a competition which needs the speed of a sprinter. I do 50 to 60 kilometres of running in the week.”
Mike Boit

Two results stood out for me regarding Mike Boit over 800m, which was his major event.
In the Commonwealth Games at Edmonton in 1978 he won the Final
1 Mike Boit (Kenya) 1:46.39; 2 Seymour  Newman (Jamaica) 1:47.30; 3 Pete Lamashown ( Kenya) 1:47.57. It was his margin of victory that was so impressive.
The other one he did not win but was involved in a very close finish with a ‘Super Athlete named ‘White Lightning’ who won both the 400 & 800 in the 1976 Olympics. The individual was Alberto Juantorena of Cuba. It was in the first World Cup that I saw in Düsseldorf in 1977. The First three were 1 Alberto Juantorena in 1:44.0; 2 Mike Boit 1:44.01; 3 Willi Wulbeck of FRG 1:45.5. Januatorena actually leaned as did Mike Boit, at the finish, like World class high hurdlers do!
Mike was a prolific racer winning 14 of 16 races over 800/880 in his European athletics campaign of 1975 According to Mel Watman in Athletics Weekly. His fastest time was 1:43.8 that year in Zurich, on the 20th of August. Mike finished ahead of Ivo Van Damme of Belgium, the 1976 Olympic silver medallist, who did 1:45.4.
Mike Boit’s first major Championships was coming a close up third in the 800 in the 1972 Munich Olympic Final behind Wottle & Arzhanov. (First 8 are with the Wottle extract).

Mike Boit recalls “Ouko and I were boxed in by Arzhanov when he went to the front.
I had some energy and could have gone ahead of Ouko but I did not want to because then he would have to go round everybody else. I really got very annoyed as I saw my chances slipping away and when I came into the straight I started to pull out again. I was getting closer and closer. I thought I had beaten Arzhanov and I was looking at Wottle to see if I could beat him. It was a very tight finish!’
Before turning to the 899/880y Mike had tried to do the 400 & 400 hurdles but with the latter he had a bit of a disaster
“One day I was practising on a grass track and trying to take off for the hurdle when I stepped in a hole, lost my balance and hit the top of the hurdle. I hurt myself so badly I could not run for the whole of 1970.
‘I started running again in 1971. Alex Stewart introduced me to interval training, we started to do a lot of exercises and he also encouraged me to run more cross-country.
Then came Bruce Tulloh (5000 European Champion of 1962). He taught me at the same school. I remember Bruce telling me I was as good as anybody else in the 800m and I couldn’t believe it. I thought he was probably trying to create some interest to make me keep going! I ran cross-country with Bruce to build stamina. We were looking ahead to the Olympics but I wasn’t quite sure. I didn’t think I was going to make the team as there were several runners better than me at that time.”
How did it all begin?
“Small children usually like to run and there was no particular time when I said OK, this time I am going to start running. It was just something that happened. My athletics really began when I was in the second year at St Patrick’s high school, Iten, a mission school run by Patrician fathers from Ireland.”
Willi Wulbeck

“Willi Wulbeck born 18/12/54 in Oberhausen, North Rhine-Westphalia.
Undoubtedly his best major Championship result was gaining the gold medal in the 1983 World Championships. 1 Willi Wulbeck (West Germany) 1:43.65; 2 Rob Druppers (Netherlands) 1:44.20 3 Joaquim Cruz (Brazil) 1:44.27).
 It was towards the end of the summer of 1982 I talked to him at the hotel near to my home in Crystal Palace. Wullbeck had run 3:33.74 for 1500 in 1980 but it is the 800 we are concentrating on. He won all the West German National Championship 800s’ from 1974 to 1983. His fastest was in the World Championships in Helsinki 1983 and, still is the German 800 record. From above one would gather he was a consistent winner but that was not always the case.
In the European Games Final; in Athens in 1982 the race was won by his fellow countryman Hans Peter-Werner in 1:46.33; 2nd was Seb Coe (GB) in 1:46.68 and 3rd Jorma Harrkonen (Finland) 1:46.90. 8th and last in the final was Willi Wullbeck.
Willi explains “First of all in that I was beaten mentally, I was tired because I had only slept half the night for the two nights before the final. I felt bad warming up for the final and that made me feel a bit insecure for the race itself and I did not feel too good after 400-500 metres.’
‘If I lose contact in a race, like in the European Final, and think I won’t be in the first 3 or home, I tend to resign myself, not fighting hard to get say sixth or seventh, instead of eighth place That is my problem I consider over 800 I should always be in the first 4, if not in the medals, and I just can’t raise myself to a good performance if I have fallen right way from the leaders. “
He beat American James Robinson in 1:46.31 in West Berlin and the ‘Great’ John Walker of New Zealand (The first runner ever to break 3:50 for a mile), over 1000m in 2:16.85 in Cologne.  Willi was also 3rd in the World Cup in Düsseldorf in 1977, just behind Jauantorena and Mike Boit as well as 3rd in the Montreal World Championships of 1979

Willi Wulbeck talked about his outstanding rivals

“I feared Juantorena most because he looked so powerful when I ran beside him. He appeared like ‘Superman’. He was the best 400 runner and had a big stride. He could play with the other athletes in a race. It seemed. Coe is small and does not appear so powerful with his strides, so he is more human-like to run against. I don’t know who would have won in the Olympics - probably Coe if at his best - but I think Juantoreana was also able to run as fast as Coe. Those two are the best in the World (Talking in 1982).

He mentioned a coach he had at his club Oberhaussen’s Rot-Weis (Red & White)
At 15 Willi found he was close to the best in the school and then joined the club which Hans Raff, an Olympian in 1936 coached at.

“He advised me about training and under his influence I improved from 2:03 for 800 to 1:45.”

Seb Coe

(Sebastian Newbold Coe, was born at Chiswick 29th of September 1956)
Lord Coe was elected as President to the World’s most prestige’s organisation in the athletics world, which is the IAAF. It was at the IAAF’s 50th Congress in Beijing, China. That was on the 11th of August 2015.
Seb Coe, twice won the Olympic 1500. That was in 1980 & 1984 and, with Steve Ovett was a prolific middle distance winner and record breaker in the same era, like Steve Cram a little later on.
For me, the strange phenomena was that Ovett tended to lean towards the longer distances, cross-country, even a half marathon, whilst Seb Coe, under the tutelage of his Father Peter Coe, was intrinctly a speed endurance runner. Yet, it was Ovett who won the Olympic 800m Final in Moscow in 1980 in 1:45.40 with Coe 2nd in 1:45.85. (Ovett’s personal best for the distance was 1:44.09)
It is the 800 we are concentrating on here and there are some facts and figures that still indicate Coe was one of the ‘Greatest’ 800 runners.
He won the World Cup race in Rome by a large margin in 1979 in 1:46.1 with James Robinson, five times American Champion, doing 1:47.31 in second place.
In the European Games 800 in Split, 1986, the first 3 in the 800 were 1. Seb Coe 1:44.50; 2 Tom Mckean 1:44.61 The 1500 winner at those Games Steve Cram was 3rd in 1:44.88.
About the Moscow 1980, Olympic 800 that Coe was 2nd to Ovett in; Jerry Odlin, who was at Murray State University, told me about Don Paige doing some amazing training sessions. Jerry said he would have put money on him to win the Olympic Final that was if the USA had not boycotted the Games. Paige did scrape an inches win over Coe in Viareggio, after the Olympic Games in Moscow and, that helped Paige to be ranked as No 1 in the World by Track & Field News for 1980.
I am not so sure about him being able to win in Moscow, if you consider that Don Paige’s fastest ever 800 was 1:44.29 in Rieti in 1983 and Coe’s best was 1:41.72 in Florence on 10/6/81 and also 1:42.33 on the 3rd of July in 1979 in Oslo. Those times were both World records.
The Kenyan 800m man James Maina was a medal possibility too but, was not in Moscow and, in Zurich he won an 800 in his fastest ever time of 1:44.25 back in 1979.
Joaquim Cruz, at the top of his form beat Coe to the Gold in 1:43.00 to Coe’s 1:43.64 in the Los Angeles Olympics of 1984 but Coe beat Cruz back in 1979.

Some interesting things which says something about Seb Coe as a person

In 1984 Seb Coe told me
“Sometimes, of the people who identified with you as a good club runner, as a good class National runner or even as a successful international runner, there is a drop out rate all the way through.
A lot of people actually are almost afraid to come up and have a conversation with you, people I have known for a long time, that I would see at the Yorkshire Championships.
That Yorkshire meet was a lovely outing for me, as I met a lot of people I never see that regularly anymore.
I won my first Yorkshire title - Either schools or AAA’s back in 1970-71. I have had a title from 400 to 5000.”
‘Yet you don’t change. This is the thing; obviously your breadth of experience expands and you get a greater insight into life. No doubt about that. You are more travelled and probably worldlier about the sport.’
It knocks the rough edges off?
“I think it does. It tempers the balance between realism and cynicism a lot of the time. Yes, it is a little bit disappointing when people find it difficult to relate with you, just because on paper you have done there seems to be a watershed you start travelling, and you are assumed to be a different person.’
TVH’s Pete Browne, was second to Seb Coe (Haringey) in the Middlesex Championships when Coe set the Championship record of 1:44.0 in 1985.
Browne was AAA’ 800 Champion in 1971 and, went on to win World Veteran/Masters titles over 800m. Browne had this to say about Seb Coe
“Coe was a different kind of runner. Coe was much more technical and clinical in his approach but again he was a personable guy. I always got on very well with him and hold him in the highest regard. He is not the sort of person who would blank you at a current social function. He would wander up and say’ How are you’, which with people in his position of power it is not always the case.’
About Steve Ovett Pete said “Steve Ovett was always destined for greatness and with due respect to Harry Wilson, anybody could have coached Steve Ovett I think. He did not actually and still doesn’t realise how good he was!  

Coe’s pleasure in purely running
“The Peak District is the ultimate delight and my family home, is in Sheffield just on the edge of the Peaks. In the summer it is lovely, and in the winter it is pure Wagner- very bleak. A bit bare at times. It is a lovely area to hide away in.”

Alastair Aitken

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