Wednesday 13 December 2017

Golden mile owed much to Thomas

Eamonn Sweeney

Albie Thomas, who died last week at the age of 78, played a central role in perhaps the most significant international sporting event ever to take place in Ireland.

The Australian was the pacemaker in the mile at Clonliffe Harriers Stadium on August 6, 1958 when the great promoter Billy Morton had assembled a top-class field for an attempt on the world record held by Britain's Derek Ibbotson.

Everything went according to plan as another Aussie, Herb Elliott, clocked 3:54.5 to knock 2.7 seconds off the record, with his second-placed fellow countryman Merv Lincoln also inside the old mark. Third placed reigning Olympic champion Ronnie Delany was just outside Ibbotson's record. In fourth place was future Olympic 5,000m champion Murray Halberg. Small wonder that the stadium is now named after Morton.

Thomas, who finished fifth, tended to be regarded as a footnote to the story of Elliott's victory but he did something arguably even more incredible. Because the following night in Santry he shrugged off his pacemaking exertions to break the world two-mile record in a time of 8:32.0. This took 1.4 seconds off the old record and stood for almost three years. Less than a month earlier, he'd broken the world three-mile record by running 13:10.6, also in Dublin.

They bred them tough in those days, but nobody was tougher than Albie Thomas.

Sunday Independent

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