Full Name: George Derek Ibbotson.
Date of Birth: 17 June 1932
Born: Berry Brow, near Huddersfield.
Club: Longwood H, South London H.
The 1950s was an incredible era for British middle-distance running and among so many greats was Derek Ibbotson, a Yorkshireman who, unlike two of his legendary contemporaries in Sir Roger Bannister and Sir Chris Chataway, became a world record holder and an Olympic medallist. Not that ‘Ibbo’ would use that as a boast. He allowed his talking on the track to show the brilliance of his speed. But like so many of the other British greats from that period, his career was packed together into a short spell of dominance.
As an athlete who could adapt between the track and cross-country, Ibbotson ran for Longwood Harriers and he was Yorkshire junior mile champion between 1949 and 1951. After RAF service he shot into world class in 1955 when he won the Inter-counties Three Miles title in 13:34.6 and he was second to Chataway over that distance in the AAA. But a year later he beat Chataway to become the AAA champion and set himself up for a place on the podium at the Olympic Games in Melbourne.Vladimir Kuts, of the Soviet Union, had been the great rival with Chataway in 1954 and by the time of the 5000m final in Melbourne, he had won the 10,000m gold medal aswell. He was not to be denied a double, though behind him as Kuts won in an Olympic record of 13:39.6, two Britons battled for silver. Gordon Pirie finished second in 13:50.6 followed by Ibbotson in 13:54.4, who then turned his attention to the Mile.
The First Since Bannister
It had been three years since Bannister had created history but no Briton had succeeded him as world record holder at the Mile until July 19, 1957, when Ibbotson did just that. A great favourite of the British public, Ibbo reached the peak of his fame in this year. His programme of races was immense. He ran 70 times, setting a European record for the Mile with 3:58.4, a month later retaining his AAA Three Miles crown in a British record 13:20.8 before breaking the Mile world mark during London’s match with New York match at White City. It was some race, and some field too, including Czechoslovakia’s Stanislav Jungwirth, the new 1500m world record holder, and Ron Delaney, of Ireland, who had won the Olympic 1500m title in Melbourne the previous winter. But this day was Ibbo’s day and he charged away along the back straight and into the home turn to win in 3:57.2, breaking John Landy’s 1954 time of 3:58.0 and, en route, setting a British record for 1500m at 3:41.9. On September 27, 1958, he would be part of another world record when, as a member of the England team against Finland at White City, he was on the third leg in a landmark 4 x One Mile relay which they ran in 16:30.6. Ibbotson had combined with Mike Blagrove, Peter Clark and Brian Hewson.
Ibbotson never quite recaptured such form and he was 10th and eighth at Three Miles in the British Empire and Commonwealth Games of 1958 in Cardiff and 1962 in Perth, respectively. His first wife Madeline (née Wooller, b. 31 December 1935), who later married squash star Jonah Barrington, was second in the WAAA Mile in 1962 and 1963 and won the national cross-country in 1963 and 1964. But Ibbo did create a great piece of athletics trivia, when at the White City on September 3, 1958, he finished fourth in a mile race won by Herb Elliott, of Australia, in 3:55.4. Ibbotson’s time was 4:00.00...the first man literally to run a four-minute mile.
1956: 46th International CC, 3rd 5000m Olympics
1958: 10th 3M Commonwealth Games
1962: 8th 3M Commonwealth Games
UK Internationals: 18 (1955-65)
Won AAA 3M 1956-7, indoor 2M 1962, 1965
880y 1:52.2 (1958), 1500m 4:41.9 (1957), 1 mile 3:57.2 (1957), 2000m 5:12.8 (1955), 3000m 8:00.0 (1959), 2 miles 8:41.2 (1957), 3 miles 13:20.8 (1957), 5000m 13:54.4 (1956), 6 miles 28:52.0 (1955).
Indoors: 2M 8:42.6 (1965)