Full Name: (Rt Hon. Sir) Christopher John Chataway.
Date of Birth: 31 January 1931
Born: Chelsea, London.
Club: Walton AC, Achilles.
Coach: H.J.Bignall, J.A.Jeffrey.
Chris Chataway was knighted in 1995 for his services to the aviation industry where he had been chairman of the chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority, a reward for a business career of outstanding ability for a man who believed and succeeded. It has been a remarkable life, and at 75, nothing can stop him from still creating new landmarks. At the BUPA Great North Run in 2006, and for the second year in a row, Chataway completed the course in 1:38.50. Astonishing! It had been 52 years since he had won the Three Miles at the Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, since he had taken over from Chris Brasher to help inspire Sir Roger Bannister as a pacemaker on the way to breaking the four-minute mile barrier and since he won what for many people was the greatest race in history - his defeat of Vladimir Kuts of 5000m. His passion for the sport remains as glorious as it did during what was a brief, but truly sensational track career. After his half-marathon performance on Tyneside, he said: “I run most days. I love it. I can’t think why I spent so many years of my middle life doing silly things like smoking.”
Chataway’s career as an international runner lasted only five years, but he packed so much into that period: he entered the world record books on four occasions, he inspired Bannister, he won a Commonwealth title and he made two Olympic finals. Know as the ‘Red Fox’ because of the colour of his hair, he was a charismatic athlete who was a friend and Oxford colleague of Bannister. After school at Sherborne, his first big win was a triumph in the Inter-Services Mile in 4:15.6 (now shown to have been a British junior record) in 1950 and he was second in the AAA Three Miles in 1951, before making his international debut for Britain on their Balkan tour at the end of that year. The Olympic Games in Helsinki became the domain of the Emil Zatopek, of Czechoslovakia, when he won the 5000m, 10,000m and marathon. Chataway was in the first of those races and he made a dramatic bid for victory. The following summer, on August 1, Chataway entered the world record rankings for the first time when he ran the lead leg as a British team consisting of Bill Nankeville, Don Seaman and Roger Bannister beat France at London’s White City Stadium to break the 4 x Mile mark in 16:41.0.
BBC’s First ‘Personality’
In 1954, he had an extraordinary 12 months and despite Bannister breaking the four-minute mile barrier, Chataway won the first BBC Sports Personality Of The Year title.He had become a national hero in October when he broke the 5000m world record during his amazing race with Kuts, but what a year it had been.On May 6, he had taken over from Brasher to run the final lap as a pacemaker to set Bannister on his way into history.In both training and on the day, Chataway had been such an influence.Two months later, he shared a world record with fellow Briton Fred Green when the pair clocked 13:32.3 for the Three Miles at the AAA Championships at White City.
He beat Green soon after at the British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver, securing the only individual gold medal of his career. Chataway won in 13:35.2, from Green in 13:37.2 with Frank Sando making it an English cleansweep in 13:37.4. The European Championships that summer took place in Berne and in a thrilling 5000m, Chataway had to settle for second in 14:08.8 as Russian Kuts won gold in a world record of 13:56.6. Chataway had not even really heard of Kuts. His mind was more on beating Zatopek, which he did as the Czech legend finished third in 14:10.2, but now a new rivalry had been established. The stage was set for something special and on October 13, it came at White City as Chataway and Kuts locked horns. A sell-out crowd, a huge television audience for a race shown live, and an occasion that remains fresh in the memory banks. Chataway and Kuts battled it out in the home straight after a tension-filled 12 laps, with the Briton literally just edging it 13:51.6 to 13:51.7. The time was a world record. Yet by the time that Chataway received the BBC award a few weeks later, he had been usurped as world record holder because within days of the White City race, Kuts had reclaimed the mark back with a run of 13:51.2 in Prague. Amazingly, though, on July 30, 1955, Chataway was back in the record books, and again at White City, when he ran the Three Miles in 13:23.2.
A New Career
On September 25, 1955, Chataway became the first newsreader on Independent Television, but he was still an Olympic runner. In Melbourne, the following year, he was 11th in the 5000m, but the world of politics then became his lure. He was a Conservative MP between 1959 and 1966, serving as a Parliamentary Private Secretary and then as a junior Education Minister. He was elected once again between 1969 and 1974, with ministerial positions from 1970 to 1974 and in 1972 he was Minister for Industrial Development. He retired from politics to further a business career, becoming managing director of Orion Bank between 1974 and 1988 and then chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority. But running remains his passion and more than half a century after his glorious 1954, he is still making an impression deep into his Seventies.
1952: 5th 5000m Olympics
1954: 1st 3M Commonwealth Games, 2nd 5000m Europeans
1956: 11th 5000m Olympics
UK Internationals: 11 (1951-6)
Won AAA 3miles 1952, 1955.
800m 1:53.3 (1956), 1500m 3:43.6 (1955), 1 mile 3:59.8 (1955), 2000m 5:09.4 (1955), 3000m 8:06.2 (1954), 2 miles 8:41.0 (1954), 3 miles 13:23.2 (1955), 5000m 13:51.6 (1954).