long-distance runners

long-distance runners
   Britain has had a long and successful record of distance running, but the 1990s have seen poorer results, at least for the men, with the result that there have been calls for more financial backing. There remain a number of women who are worldclass performers and have claimed numerous titles and victories. Ironically, interest for the women’s sport was probably sparked by the controversial South African Zola Budd, who broke numerous British records and kept the sport’s profile high. Since Budd, the brightest hope has been Paula Radcliffe (3000m, 5000m and mile distances), who won the world junior cross-country title in 1992; the intervening four years were blighted by injury, but Radcliffe has emerged once more, breaking Budd’s 5000m record.
   Other top female performers include marathon runner Marian Sutton, who won the Chicago race in 1996 after hovering on the edge of the elite for some time, and Yvonne Murray. Murray has had both many successes (European 3000m championship, world indoor 3000m championships, Commonwealth 10,000m), and a string of inglorious failures (as at three world championships and the 1992 Olympics). Probably the brightest star, however, is Liz McColgan, marathon, 10,000m and cross country runner. The men have struggled to live down the successes of the 1980s by Moorcroft, Ovett and Cram, and Foster before them, and have less to celebrate than the women. In marathon, Richard Neurarkar (fifth at Atlanta in 1996) and Paul Evans (third in London in 1996 and winner in Chicago in 1996) are also joined by Eamonn Martin, who won London in 1993 and Chicago in 1995. In crosscountry running, meanwhile, Britain has Andrew Pearson, who won a bronze at the 1995 European championships 9km race; the UK also took bronze in the team event. The track distances, though, have not seen success for Britain for some years. Longdistance running has come to be dominated by Kenya and Ethiopia, amongst others, and the sport’s profile is low in the UK. Of particular concern is the fact that most other countries pay their distance athletes, so allowing for full-time training. Marian Sutton complained that most of the women she ran against in Chicago were salaried, whereas she was forced to juggle a fulltime job with her training schedule.
   REX NASH

Encyclopedia of contemporary British culture . . 2014.

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