Every time I watch an event like the Great North Run or hear Mo Farrah discussing (after winning the aforementioned) his training requirements for the Chicago Marathon in a few weeks’ time, I think about Jim Peters who is famous for not finishing the Vancouver Marathon at the Commonwealth Games in 1954.
Jim Peters had previously broken the world record for the marathon on two or three separate occasions. He was the first man to break 2 hours 20 minutes for the marathon.
And on that fateful day in 1954, at the end of the marathon (during which Roger Bannister had beaten John Landy in the Golden Mile when Landy looked over the wrong shoulder!) Jim Peters entered the stadium 17 minutes in front of the next person to enter the stadium.
Jim Peters then took 10 minutes to stagger and fall repeatedly over the next 200 yards until he finally collapsed and was rushed to hospital.
The next man in the stadium was a young Scotsman Joe McGhee who duly won the race.
What everyone knew in the “trade” was that the course in Vancouver that day was over half a mile longer than the official marathon distance.
Some would say that it was the same for everybody. And so it was. (I paraphrase Brutus/Mark Antony).
I guess only those who have run marathons will understand that Jim Peters trained to run specifically 26 miles and 385 yards which he had already run to the limit of his endurance when he arrived at the stadium. When he arrived at the stadium he had already “won” in another world record time.
Jim Peters never ran again. He never complained. As far as I am aware he never mentioned the irregular distance. He never showed any bitterness.
Every Scotsman was outraged that the “Peters” matter got all the attention and a special medal from the Duke of Edinburgh and their man was hardly fêted at all.
Their man did win three successive Scottish marathons however in 1954, 1955 and 1956.