Top 10 Running Rivalries

By Bill Byrne. Posted: July 05, 2013

  1. Landy vs Bannister 1953/4
    When Australian John Landy started edging near the sub-4 minute mile barrier in 1953 the race was on. On May 6th 1954 Bannister hit the front with 300m to go. He crossed the line in 3.59.4; the magical 4-minute barrier had been cracked!
  2. Gordon Pirie vs Vladimir Kuts Melbourne Olympics, 1956
    The Melbourne 10,000m was an epic race; after 3000m the two men became locked in an amazing duel. Pirie was in front with five laps left but Kuts burst away. Kuts won by almost seven seconds in an Olympic record of 28:45.6, with Pirie eventually only eighth in 29:49.6. The Briton later won the silver over 5000m, again behind Kuts.
  3. Dave Bedford vs the clock London, 1973
    On a balmy night at the spiritual home of athletics, Crystal Palace, Bedford rewrote the 10,000m record books with a display of front running that was out-of-this-world. It was one of the greatest races ever seen - and frankly, there was only one man in it!
  4. Steve Ovett vs Seb Coe Moscow Olympics, 1980
    Coe, the world record holder over 800m was a dead cert for the distance, but in a scrappy race he seemed overawed by the occasion and Ovett sprinted away to victory. Berated by the press, Coe came back sublime in the 1500m final, kicking away to win with Ovett only managing third.
  5. Zola Budd vs Mary Decker Slaney Los Angeles, 1984 Surrounded by controversy after having her British citizenship fast-tracked in time to compete at the Games, South African-born Budd got tangled up with Decker Slaney in the 3,000m final. In just a few seconds both women's hopes for a medal were destroyed.
  6. Steve Cram vs Said Aoutia Nice, 1985
    Cram achieved immortality by becoming the first man to run 1500m under 3:30, with a time of 3:29.67, narrowly pipping Said Aouita who ran an African record of 3:29.71.
  7. Ben Johnson vs Carl Lewis Seoul Olympics 1988
    Dubbed the 'dirtiest race in history' due to six of the eight finalists in the men's 100m final being implicated in drugs use during their careers, Johnson smashed the world record to win gold in just 9.79 seconds, only to give back the medal less than 24 hours later following a failed drug's test.
  8. Haile Gebrselassie vs Paul Tergat Atlanta 1996, Sydney 2000
    In Atlanta Tergat attacked with 2km to go, throwing in a 60-second lap and a 2:32km. In Sydney, he waited until 250m, but on both occasions, Gebrselassie was able to respond and win.
  9. Kelly Holmes vs Maria Mutola
    The two were accused of 'teaming up' in the final of the World Championships 800m in 2003, where Holmes took silver to Mutola's gold, but it was Holmes who would have the ultimate victory, consigning Mutola to fourth in the 2004 Olympic final, scene of her now-legendary double gold.
  10. Kenya vs Ethiopia
    Kenya's strength in distance running is incredible, explaining why marathons are still Kenyan-dominated. But on the track the likes of Bekele and Gebrselassie have kept the distance titles in Ethiopian hands. Who is the better running nation? The jury is still out.

Tina's first love was Daley Thompson; her second love is running. When she's not out running, she writes about running, juggling motherhood, work and a beginners' group. If she won the lottery, she'd build her own running track.


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