Date of Birth: 12 January 1948
Born: Hebburn, Tyne and Wear
Club: Gateshead H.
Coach: Stan Long.
Sideburns And Success
IN the winter of 1973, having been fifth in the 1500 metres at the Olympic Games in Munich the year before, Brendan Foster had been forced to travel to Edinburgh to train because of the poor condition of his local track in Gateshead. He was preparing for the Commonwealth Games and European Championships and he decided to do something about it. Already a local hero because of his exploits at being a Commonwealth and European bronze medallist, here was the first sign of the drive and ambition which has made him one of the sport’s leading administrators.
Distinguishable by his sideburns, Foster progressed to win the 5000m at those European Championships in Rome in 1974, destroying the field with a 60.2 eighth lap and setting a meeting record of 13:17.21, despite hot and humid conditions. It was the greatest victory of his career. He returned home to take up a new job - a management position with Gateshead council who had paid for a new track in the area’s main stadium. Now Foster wanted more and along with his close friend John Caine, the Gateshead Games were staged as a way of re-opening the track, and with it came the promise from the organiser that he would run a world record. On August 3, 1974, the Games happened - and Foster was true to his word, running 7:35.2 to achieve that world record and to give the meeting landmark status and, along with his Rome glory, led to him being named as the BBC’s Sports Personality Of The Year. It was his second venture into world record territory, having broken the mark for Two Miles when he ran 8:13.68 in 1972, but it took his career onto a different path.
AT the end of 1975, Foster had run the fastest 10,000m debut time of 27:45.43 to win the Coke meeting at Crystal Palace and establish himself with a superb foundation for the Olympics the following year in Montreal. Even though he was weakened by illness by the time of the Games, the event became notable for a number of reasons. He finished third in the 10,000m in Canada, the only British track and field athlete to win a medal. It was the only time in the history of the modern Olympics that Britain had made the podium only once in athletics and not since St Louis in 1904, when they won two medals, had they had such a poor showing. Foster was the shining light and though he was then fifth in the 5000m, he had set an Olympic record 13:20.34 in his heat, in a year where he was awarded an MBE.
The End But Just The Beginning
A member of Gateshead Harriers, and a chemistry graduate of Sussex University, Foster won the Commonwealth 10,000m and the 5000m bronze in 1978 in Edmonton, but his career was nearing its end. In 1979 he won his third European Cup title, at 10,000m, but he was below his best in his final major race, 11th at the 1980 Olympics. He also set British records at 1500m 3:37.64 (1974) and 2000m 5:02.93 (1975), and now was the time to put even more back into the sport.
Great Times Ahead
He is one of the best-known athletics personalities in the country, an established member of the BBC television commentary team since he hung his spikes but while preparing for his final year, one run ultimately changed his whole life. Foster had spent the winter training in Auckland with David Moorcroft and the pair took part in a race called Round The Bays, a mass participation occasion that stretches along the city’s coastal route. Over 70,000 competed and while running, Foster had an idea.
“I had never seen anything like it,” he said. “I decided I wanted to stage one of these in Gateshead.”
More than just a dream, a spectacular reality because after he retired from the track later that year, he organised a meeting of ‘athletics’ friends in a hotel in Gateshead and together they thrashed out the idea which has become the BUPA Great North Run, the world’s largest half-marathon. Even though Foster never received - or has never received - an official letter from the local police to say he can stage such an event, the Great North Run now attracts 50,000 starters on its route from Newcastle to South Shields.Foster launched the company Nova International, of which he is now chairman, having worked previously for Nike, and which stages the race each year which has now created spin-off events around the country.
1970: 3rd 1500m Commonwealth Games, 10th 1500m World University Games
1971: 3rd 1500m Europeans
1972: 5th 1500m Olympics
1973: 1st 5000m European Cup
1974: 7th 1500m, 2nd 5000m Commonwealth Games; 1st 5000m Europeans
1975: 1st 5000m European Cup
1976: 5th 5000m, 3rd 10000m Olympics
1978: 3rd 5000m, 1st 10000m Commonwealth Games
1979: 1st 10000m European Cup
1980: 11th 10000m Olympics
UK Internationals: 20 (1970-80)
Won AAA 5000m 1973-4, 1976; 10000m 1977-8; National CC 1977.
800m 1:51.1 (1972), 1000m 2:23.5 (1980), 1500m 3:37.64 (1974), 1M 3:55.9 (1972), 2000m 5:02.93 (1975), 3000m 7:35.1 (1974), 2M 8:13.68 (1972), 5000m 13:14.6 (1974), 10000m 27:30.3 (1978), Marathon 2:15:49 (1980).
Indoors: 1M 4:02.9 (1973).