Alastair Aitken
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Three of Histories Greatest milers - Part 3 - SEB COE

SEB COE (1984)


Sebastian Newbold Coe (1.76/5'9ΒΌ 58kg/129lbs) , 0BE, MBE was born September 29th, 1956 became a life peer in 2000. He is the Chief Organiser of the London Olympics for 2012.
                His World Mile record of 3:47.33 was done in Zurich on July 17th 1979. Mike Boit was second in an African record of 3:49.45 and American Steve Scott third in 3:51.48. However Seb, considered his record of 1:41.72, also in 1981 in Florence the same year, a better record. Two of his best competitive 800 results were in 1981 when he won the World Cup 800 and then quite a lot later he won the European Championships Final in Stuttgart in 1986 with Tom McKean and Steve Cram second and third.

   I talked to Seb Coe in a pub in Putney in 1984, just before he came on the scene again to run in the Middlesex Championships, after illnesses and injuries. In the Middlesex he did a Championship Best of 1:45.2.
   However these days quite a lot of 'Stars' leave out the various County Championships and Roy Stratton, the Middlesex Championship Secretary of 2010 and 2011 remarked " They seem to be more interested in BMC races, Open meetings where they can get good times. In the Championships they get disheartened if only 2 or 3 of them turn up. They would rather have a field of 10
   ' Having said that of course, one particular athlete of note Seb Coe, always did the Middlesex Championships. I would like to think, if Seb Coe could always do the Middlesex Championships  the 'Class' athlete in Middlesex could do the same."
   Seb, who has a passion for good jazz and is a strong supporter of Chelsea football club, was running for Hallamshire Harriers before coming down to London and then running for Haringey. Gerard Long, the Captain of the Loughborough University team and a great friend of Tim Hutchings the Loughborough international runner, pointed out to me that in one of the meetings at Lougbourgh Seb Coe was on the last leg for Loughborough in the 4x400 against Gary Cook, running for  the AAA's. Cook was a more noted 400 man than Seb but Seb Coe put up a grandstand finish to catch Cook for the University and win the match..
   Pete Browne, the International 800 runner said " I ran against Seb Coe several times. In the
1984 Middlesex Championships he was coming back and ran that 1:45.2 and I was third in 1:50.  I always got on 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 is not always the case."
   However Seb said to me in 1984 " Sometimes. Of the people that indentified with you as a good club runner, as a good national class runner or even a successful international runner there is a drop out rate all the way through.  A lot of people are actually 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 did not see regularly anymore.'
  ' I won the first Yorkshire title right the way through till 1963. I have had a title on the track from 400 to 5000."
   ' Without getting to romantic about it, I consider 'Haringey has put two or three years on my athletics career. It is one of the smartest moves I have ever made. I still work very closely with my Father (The late), Peter Coe so to hear that one of the runners had pulled out with a septic toe (Adrian Stewart) for Southern Road relay, I thought it was bad news on the morning of the race, The Captain is switching the team around and you are not focussing on yourself quite as much."
   A friend of Seb's at Tapton school was suffering from a rare form of juvenile arthritis.. He could hardly walk let alone run "It is a very important thing to come to terms with. There have been two people I have been quite close to, Danny and a little girl. A little girl I speak to a couple of times a week on the telephone. She was involved in a horrific accident and she lost a limb and part of her face. She started ringing me up after the 1980 Olympics.She is fourteen now (I984)'
'You worry bitterly about an Achilles tendon that is sore or a touch of shin splints, ligament or knee problems that keep you side lined for six weeks.--then you get on the phone talk to a kid like that, who is having a plastic limb fitted and her face remodelled and all sorts of  inherent problems. That brings you down to earth. It is not a question of " There for the grace of is not that, it is just simply that you can lose perspective.
' When Steve Ovett came out with exactly the same comment a few years ago about his work he does with handicapped kids in Brighton."

Olympic 800 in Moscow in 1980  20th of July 1980
1 Steve Ovett (GB) 1:45.40, 2 Seb Coe (GB) 1:45.85; 3 3 Nicolay Kirov (URS) BLR 1:45.94.

Olympic 1500 on 1st of August 1980
1 Seb Coe (GB) 3:38.40; 2 Jurgen Straub (GDR) 3:38.80; 3 Steve Ovett (GB) 3:38.99

Coming second in the 800  Seb Coe commented  ironically " It was construed as a total disaster. We may yet have to adapt back to 1971 standards because there is no guarantee that some of the performances we are throwing out in middle distance, sprints and some of the field events are going to continue.'  (How right Seb Coe was with those comments looking back in 2011)
   ' My expectation was I still believe I am the best 800m runner around. That  takes absolutely nothing away from Ovett who won a  good race."
  1500 Ovett remarked ." After winning the 800 it was coming to terms with the deflation after achieving an Olympic Gold Medal, and then re-motivating myself again.After"winning the 800"
Seb Coe went on in 1984 in Los Angeles on the 11th of August  to come  2nd to Joaquim Cruze of Brazil (1:43.00) in the 800 Final in 1:43.64 with Earl Jones of the USA  3rd in 1:43.83. That was on the 6th of August 1984, then the 1500 Final came round and Seb Coe won than Final on the 11th Of August in an Olympic record of 3:32.53.Steve Cram (GB) was 2nd in 3:33.40, and Jose Manuel Abascal of Spain 3rd in 3:34.40.
    Which of  his performances  stood  out for him back in 1984 " I am very proud of running 1000 metres World record which meant doing 1:44.4 then still hanging on for 27 seconds for the last 200. I have never felt as bad as I did 40 metres out from the tape that night in Oslo Two nights earlier I had run 3:31.9 for 1500.
That 1000 stands out, I consider because I was taken into an area where it actually was hard and it hurt. I have a tape of that race and my right leg actually stopped functioning about four or five paces from the tape and I was dragging it though like a dead lift. If I had been walking I would have been done for lifting." (2:12.18)."
Where did Coe like running most
" The Peak District to me is ultimate delight and my family home in Sheffield, just on the edge of the peaks. In the Summer it is lovely and in the Winter it's pure Wagner--very bleak, a bit bare at times. It is a lovely area to hide away in."

Alastair Aitken

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