One of the great memories I have as a beginning runner during my freshman year in high school was watching the great British milers during the Golden Era of the mile.  In 1979 a young Sebastian Coe arrived on the world scene, breaking the world record in the 800 and 1500 meters, and since I considered myself a miler, he instantly became one of my idols that I would forever try to emulate.  During that same time, Steve Ovett, the “bad boy” British miler had set an impressive string of 1500 meter wins stretching over a two year period.  But the two had never met in a race at the top level.  Until the Moscow Olympics of 1980.  In the 800 meter final, world record holder Coe let Ovett slip away for the gold medal in a tactically disastrous race.  Coe was able to claim the silver medal, but he was greatly disappointed in the “loss.” The 1500 final would be his chance for redemption, but this time, Steve Ovett was the world record holder and the favorite.  Winning the gold, with Ovett taking only a bronze, Sebastian Coe established himself as the next Golden Boy on the world track and field scene.

1980 Olympic 800 Meter Final

Running a tactically poor race, Coe would have to settle for a disappointing silver medal.

1980 Olympic 1500 Meter Final

Coe would get even, beating the favorite and current world record holder Ovett.

Just a year later, I remember vividly the late summer of 1981 leading into my senior year. Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett had exchanged world records in the mile three times in just a ten-day period, Coe putting a final cap on the record at 3:47.33.  During this time another great British miler was rising through the ranks:  Steve Cram.  As a teenager, he had made it to the final of the 1980 Olympic 1500 meters in Moscow, and in 1983 had won the World Championships at the same distance, and was now crowned the best in the world. He would eventually go on to break the world record in 1985 and be the first to break 3:47, but by the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles, Steve Ovett still owned the world record and Sebastian Coe was still the reigning Olympic champion.  The 1500 in LA would be the greatest Olympic showdown in history; each of these great champions had managed to avoid each other in their record-breaking races over the preceding several years.  Adding even more intrigue to the race in Los Angeles, the British press, having considered Coe “washed up”, had brazenly printed their disdain when Coe was selected to be a member of the British Olympic team (the British athletes are selected rather than qualify at an Olympic “trials”). 

Aug. 19, 1981 Zurich, Switzerland

Sebastian Coe breaks Steve Ovett's mile record

Aug. 26, 1981 Koblenz, Germany

Steve Ovett breaks Coe's world record that's only 7 days old

August 28, 1981 Brussels, Belgium

Seb Coe crushes the record in the Golden Mile 2 days later.

1985 World Record Mile

Steve Cram establishes a new era in the mile

1984 Olympic 1500 Final, Los Angeles

The great showdown is now set. The three great British milers, at the peak of their careers, meet in the most important race on earth.

1984 Olympic 800 Final, Los Angeles

The great British milers meet our own great from San Diego (by way of Brazil) Joachim Cruz. Who knew one of the greatest middle-distance runners of all time lives in our own backyard? One of my great memories as a young runner, I was there at the LA Colosseum to watch this race.

Coached by his father Peter Coe, Sebastian Coe became the bench mark in athletics both as an expert tactical racer with a perfectly fluid running form, and a role model in his work ethic, carefully following his father's workout plans that would influence future coaches and runners for the next 30 years.

I hope you enjoy watching these races as I have over the years.

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