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Last Updated:  Friday, 28 February, 2003, 12:14 GMT
Farewell to a visionary
Chris Brasher: Gold-winning founder of the London Marathon
Brasher: The "trier" who struck gold
Chris Brasher's achievements ensured his place in Britain's sporting history on several fronts: as pacemaker in Roger Bannister's record-breaking mile, as an Olympic champion, and as the founder of the London Marathon.

Brasher was born in Guyana, where his father, a radio engineer, started the post and telegraph service.

Later his father's work took the family to Baghdad and Jerusalem before Brasher arrived at a prep school near Cirencester, seven years old, with a stutter that was to cause him frequent discomfort.

The tendency resurfaced many years later, when Brasher, by now a broadcaster, was interviewing the Duke of Windsor, who stammered his first answer.

With Chataway and Bannister in the famous mile race
Leading the way for Bannister's record
"That jolted me back to my youth and I stuttered," recalled Brasher.

"The Duke thought I was taking the mickey. He was not amused."

Brasher emerged from his education at Rugby and Cambridge with the modest reputation among his athletics contemporaries of being a "trier".

Single-minded

His initial claim to fame was established on a May evening in 1954 at Oxford's Iffley Road running track, courtesy of Bannister.

He and Chris Chataway were the pacemakers as Bannister became the first man to break the four-minute barrier for the mile.

"My one moment of fame and I'd achieved it riding on someone else's back," he said.

"It made me desperate to show in some other event that it was possible for me to do something."

That moment of individual fame would come in the 3000m steeplechase at the Melbourne Olympics of 1956.

His preparation was single-minded as he gave up smoking, broke up with his girlfriend, forsook his favourite outdoor pursuit, mountain-climbing, and spent extra weeks in Australia acclimatising.

On medals podium in 1956
An unlikely gold-medal winner
But still no-one gave Brasher a chance.

He was the third member of the steeplechase team and Britain had not won an athletics gold for 20 years.

But to the incredulity of almost everyone in the stadium, the man who described himself as an athletics "scrubber" came home first.

Controversy

Having confounded the athletics world, Brasher returned to his career as a broadcaster with the BBC and journalist with The Observer, twice winning an award as Sports Writer of the Year.

But in 1979, he ran the New York Marathon, something which would change his life and the lives of thousands of others.

He wrote an article for The Observer, outlining his vision for a similar race in London.

"To believe this story, you must believe that the human race can be one joyous family, working together, laughing together, achieving the impossible," he wrote.

Flora London Marathon 1999
Brasher founded the London Marathon

"Last Sunday, in one of the most trouble-stricken cities in the world, 11,532 men and women from 40 countries in the world, assisted by over a million black, white and yellow people, laughed and cheered and suffered during the greatest folk festival the world has seen.

"I wonder whether London could stage such a festival? We have the course, a magnificent course, but do we have the heart and hospitality to welcome the world?"

In 1981, along with the help of his friend and business partner, John Disley, his dream became a reality as the first ever London Marathon was staged.

Brasher was married to the former Wimbledon doubles finalist, Shirley Bloomer, with whom he had three children.

He once said he believed "a man's reach should exceed his grasp".

Each year, thousands of London Marathon runners attempt to follow the example that made him an unlikely Olympic hero.




WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Five Live's John Rawling
"He saw initiating the London Marathon as his greatest achievement"


Chris Brasher on the London Marathon
"It's about mankind trying to reach beyond the possible"


SEE ALSO
Marathon founder Brasher dies
28 Feb 03  |  Athletics
Racing mourns owner Brasher
28 Feb 03  |  Horse Racing

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