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Brendan Foster

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Title: Brendan Foster  
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Subject: Athletics at the 1976 Summer Olympics – Men's 10,000 metres, Athletics at the 1972 Summer Olympics – Men's 1500 metres, A Question of Sport, BBC Sports Personality of the Year winners, Emiel Puttemans
Collection: 1948 Births, Alumni of the University of Sussex, Athletes (Track and Field) at the 1972 Summer Olympics, Athletes (Track and Field) at the 1976 Summer Olympics, Athletes (Track and Field) at the 1978 Commonwealth Games, Athletes (Track and Field) at the 1980 Summer Olympics, Bbc Sports Personality of the Year Winners, Bbc Sports Presenters and Reporters, British Long-Distance Runners, British Male Athletes, Commanders of the Order of the British Empire, Commonwealth Games Competitors for England, Commonwealth Games Gold Medallists for England, Commonwealth Games Medallists in Athletics, English Athletes, English Long-Distance Runners, English Sports Broadcasters, English Sportsmen, European Athletics Championships Medalists, Living People, Male Long-Distance Runners, Olympic Athletes of Great Britain, Olympic Bronze Medallists for Great Britain, Olympic Medalists in Athletics (Track and Field), People Associated with Leeds Beckett University, People from Hebburn, Sportspeople from Newcastle Upon Tyne
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Brendan Foster

Brendan Foster
Brendan Foster at the 1972 Olympics
Personal information
Nickname(s) Big Bren
Born 12 January 1948 (1948-01-12) (age 68)
Hebburn, County Durham, England
Height 5 ft 10 in (178 cm)
Weight 10 st 10 lb (68 kg)
Sport Athletics
Event(s) 1,500 m, 5,000 m, 10,000 m
Club Gateshead Harriers
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s) 1,500 m – 3:37.64 (1974)
5,000 m – 13:14.6 (1974)
10,000 m – 27:30.3 (1978)

Brendan Foster CBE (born 12 January 1948) is a British former long-distance runner who founded the Great North Run. He won the bronze medal in the 10,000 metres at the 1976 Summer Olympics, the 5,000 metres at the 1974 European Championships and the 10,000 metres at the 1978 Commonwealth Games.


  • Early life 1
  • Athletics career 2
  • Business, media and other activities 3
  • References and notes 4
  • External links 5

Early life

Educated at St Joseph's Grammar School, the University of Sussex and Carnegie College of Physical Education, Foster returned to St Joseph's Grammar School as a chemistry teacher. His pupils included footballer turned manager Phil Brown, whom he tried to encourage to take up running over football.[1]

Athletics career

Brendan Foster's athletic career saw him compete in three Olympic Games, claiming Britain a track and field medal (bronze in the 10,000 metres) at the 1976 Montreal Olympics. In 1973 he broke the World Record for two miles at Crystal Palace with a time of 8:13.68. In 1974 he won a silver medal in the Commonwealth Games in Christchurch in a time of 13:14.6 behind Ben Jipcho before winning the European Championships 5,000m, beating Olympic champion Lasse Virén en route to Gold in 13:17.2, having built up such a commanding lead before the final lap that he ran it in a relatively sedate 62 seconds when the then world record was within his grasp. In the same year he broke the 3,000m World Record on his home track, Gateshead International Stadium with a time of 7:35.1. That year, Foster was awarded the BBC's prestigious Sports Personality of the Year award.

He established his personal best in the 10,000 m with a time of 27:30.3 run at Crystal Palace on 23 June 1978, while also winning 10,000 m gold at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton. Foster was appointed a Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1976.

Foster only placed fourth in the 1978 European Athletics Championships 10,000-metre race, but he ran faster than any 10,000-metre European Champion has run ever since (see various European countries' books about the European Athletics Championships from 1982 to 2006). Foster finished fifth in the 1976 Olympics 5,000-metre final, just 1.4 seconds behind the winner, Lasse Viren of Finland. Foster lost all his three Olympic races against Viren – 5,000 and 10,000 m in 1976 and 10,000 m in 1980.[2][3][4] In the preliminaries to the 1976 5,000 m race he broke Viren's Olympic record running 13:20.34. That record would hold through the final until it was surpassed in the final of the 1984 Olympics.

Foster's final major race was the 1980 Olympics 10,000-metre final, where he finished eleventh, almost 40 seconds behind the winner, Ethiopia's Miruts Yifter.[2]

In 2010, he was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame.

Business, media and other activities

Brendan joined the sports company Nike International Limited in 1981 as UK managing director. Progressing to European managing director, Vice-President Marketing (Worldwide) and Vice-President of Nike Europe. In 1988 he set up a company, Nova International with three friends from Nike.[5] This company was later renamed to View From International, which won a contract to supply the British athletics team. The brand was later sold to Marks and Spencer in 2002 for an estimated £2m.[6][7]

Since retiring from the sport after the Moscow Olympics in 1980, Foster has worked for BBC Television, commentating and reporting on Athletics at every major event since 1983.

In 1977, he helped organise the "Gateshead Fun Run", a pioneering running event.[8] In 1981, Foster founded the Great North Run, an annual half marathon from Newcastle upon Tyne to South Shields. The race became the biggest running event in the UK, and one of the biggest half marathons in the world. By 2014, the race had been run by over 1 million competitors, the first IAAF event to pass this milestone.[9][10] Foster ran in the 2002 event for the first time in many years, after being challenged to do so by radio presenter Ray Stubbs.

Foster has also promoted sport in Ethiopia and other African countries.

Foster was Chancellor of Leeds Metropolitan University from 2005 to 2009.[11] He was appointed Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2008 New Year Honours.

References and notes

  1. ^ "Hull boss Phil Brown takes on Great North Run challenge". Daily Mirror. 16 September 2009. Retrieved 16 September 2009. 
  2. ^ a b Brendan Foster.
  3. ^ Hannus, Matti; "The Thousand Stars of Athletics" ("Tuhat yleisurheilun tähteä"), published in Finland, 1983
  4. ^ Butcher, Pat (2004) "The Perfect Distance – Ovett & Coe: The Record-Breaking Rivalry", Weidenfeld&Nicolson, London
  5. ^ "Brendan Foster takes gold in a very different arena". The Independent. 1 July 1997. Retrieved 14 November 2009. 
  6. ^ "M&S adds View From sportwear to its line up". The Independent. 6 June 2002. Retrieved 14 November 2009. 
  7. ^ "Olympic hero sells sports brand". BBC. 5 June 2002. Retrieved 14 November 2009. 
  8. ^ Engelbrecht, Gavin (5 June 2013). "North-East fun run was first in the UK". Northern Echo ( 
  9. ^ "Great North Run: Thousands complete half-marathon". British Broadcasting Corp. 7 September 2014. 
  10. ^ "Great North Run 2014: One millionth finisher crosses line". British Broadcasting Corp. 7 September 2014. 
  11. ^ Ex-Olympian quits university role. BBC News. 28 January 2009

External links

Preceded by
Emiel Puttemans
Men's 3,000m World Record Holder
3 August 1974 – 27 June 1978
Succeeded by
Henry Rono
Preceded by
Jackie Stewart
BBC Sports Personality of the Year
Succeeded by
David Steele
Sporting positions
Preceded by
Emiel Puttemans
Men's 3.000m Best Year Performance
Succeeded by
Rod Dixon

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