Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken
Alastair Aitken's
Interviews and

Derek Ibbotson (Interviewed Oct 1962 - updated 2011)

George Derek Ibbotson MBE, was born June 17th 1932 in Huddersfield, West Riding of Yorkshire and attended King James' Grammar school, Almondbury and did his National service in the RAF..
   Derek Ibbotson was married to Madeline (Women's National cross-country Champion in 1963-64), who was in the White City Stadium to see Derek break the mile World record, at the White City in 1957.
   When I look back through the years to the hundreds and hundreds of athletes I have interviewed, I would say Derek Ibbotson was one of the 'Great Characters' in the sport. When he was competing one of the National papers dubbed him as the 'Cheeky Chappie of athletics' He always had a glint in his eye and could often make girls heads turn with his wry sense of humour.
   His 'Purple year' in athletics was 1957 but it was in 1956 he won a bronze medal in the Olympic 5000m in Australia. (1 Vladimir Kuts (USSR) 13:39.6 (Olympic record time), 2 Gordon Pirie (GB) 13:50.6; 3 Derek Ibbotson (GB) 13:54.4).
 Longwood Harrier, Derek Ibbotson was AAA's  3 mile Champion in 1956-57 and, he was also handy at cross-country running. He joined South London Harriers for a while who were a top cross-country team at the time..
   It was on the evening of the 19th of July 1957 that Ibbotson lined up for the mile World record attempt with Ronnie Delany from Eire, the Olympic 1500 Champion of 1956, Stanislav Jungwirth (Czech) who had recently set new World figures for the 1500, Ken Wood (GB) Mike Blagrove (GB), Stefan Lewandowski (Poland) and Alan Gordon (GB). The net result was that it was the first time four people, in the same race, had broken four minutes. Mike Blagrove, the Ealing club runner and international, set a furious pace for Derek and took the field through in 55.3 and was still leading with 1:55.8 at the 880 mark. On the third lap Jungwirth decided to go ahead then Derek Ibbotson came alongside him and went for broke in the last 300m and, he won convincingly. The first four were Derek Ibbotson 3:57.2; 2 Ronnie Delany 3:58.8; 3 Stanislav Jungwirth 3:59.1 and Ken Wood 3:59.3.(Previous record was by John Landy of Australia, who ran 3:58, on the 21st of June 1954 in Turku Finland. He went on to come 3rd in the Olympic 1500 of 1956)
   Who inspired Derek Ibbotson to do such great feats.
   " Nobody really, I have inspiration from thoughts of breaking World records. I always wanted to become a World record holder, a lot of drive inside me. I have never had a coach. I have admired lots of runners but have never been inspired by them. I have always wanted to become the best in the World.'
   What was his advice for an aspiring, young runner, wanting to achieve the sort of things Derek believed he could achieve.
   "The main thing when you are young is not to be worried by reputations and size because World Champions come in all shapes and sizes. When you are young you think a big lad is bound to beat you. This may be true when you are 16,17 or 18 but when you get older there are lots of things that come into it. It's what you have in the heart and in the mind that counts because mind can plan a race well, to make up for the little lack of physique"
   I asked Robbie Brightwell, the European 400 gold medallist of 1962 and 4x400 relay Olympic silver medallist in 1964 the same thing. That was on the same day in Brighton and, he had this to say:-
    "The main thing is you must have some potential but it is not the athlete with greatest potential who reaches the top, but the athlete with the greatest perseverance. That is the big thing that counts, not to give in. Some years you have scrubber years, some years you have good one's . Keep on racing have faith in yourself and then you will eventually come through"
   There were so many races that Ibbotson achieved good results in. He won his race in the GB match v Poland in Warsaw. He beat two 'Great' Hungarians, Laszlo Tabori of Hungary and Sandor Iharos over 1500 in 3:49.2 at the White City in 1956. In 1959 he beat good East Germans Hans Grodotzki and Siegfried Valentin in the Whitsun International 2 miles and yet he had been written off by then'
   " When people write me off and say I am finished I have tremendous determination 'I'll show  the beggars!' This is why I succeed to get back when people think I am more or less finished."
   About athletics back in 1962 with his usual sense of humour he explained
   ' Athletes should receive at least £100 a week to keep up with the footballers who don't train half as much as we do. That is one thing for a start'
   ' Seriously speaking though, I think money should be paid  to some athletes for broken time. Roy Fowler and Brian Hall running abroad have to lose money and wages which I think is basically very unfair.'
   ' With myself, Gordon Pirie and other people the amount of training is fantastic, near enough 360 odd days a year, 1½  hours a day which is a lot of man hours."

Alastair Aitken

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