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  Friday, 2 August, 2002, 15:42 GMT 16:42 UK
Europe's barefoot champion

The European Championships hold a special place in Bruce Tulloh's heart as it was the scene of his greatest triumph.

In 1962, Tulloh overcame a tough field in Belgrade to clinch the 5,000m title in sizzling style.

His performance lacked only one thing - running shoes.

But this was no accident or mistake. According to Tulloh, on the right surface, it is the best way to run.

"It depended on the track," the 66-year-old told BBC Sport Online.

"If it was gritty enough, then running barefoot was the most efficient way - it's the lightest running shoe ever."


It was really a matter of convincing myself I could do it in a major event
Bruce Tulloh
Of course, Tulloh is not the only athlete to run without shoes as Zola Budd proved in the 1980s, but he is the original "barefoot champion".

Tulloh had started competing without shoes in 1959 when he became convinced that they were affecting his performance.

"I did a bad time for the three miles and I decided to try it without shoes on.

"It worked and a few months later, I won my first British AAA title."

"I carried on running like that until I retired in 1967."

Tulloh grabbed a string of British distance titles and records during his career, but the European Championships still stands out as his crowning achievement.

He went to the 1960 Olympic Games but, like many of his team-mates, failed to acclimatise to Rome's severe heat and came home empty-handed.

Two years later, in Belgrade, he finally had the chance to prove himself in a major competition.

The diminutive runner had enjoyed the perfect build-up.

Having regained the UK three-mile record the previous summer with a time of 13 minutes 12.0 seconds, Tulloh travelled to New Zealand at the start of the year and clocked a new UK two-mile record of 8:34.0.

Three days later he ran his one and only sub-four-minute mile, finishing second to a Peter Snell world record.

But Tulloh still knew that overcoming the powerful challenge of Russian favourite Pyotr Bolotnikov and Poland's Kazimierz Zimny in Belgrade would not be so easy.

After winning his heat comfortably, the Berkshire-born athlete was set for a classic showdown.

Bruce Tulloh two years before the final in Belgrade
Tulloh cools his feet after a tough run
"It was really a matter of convincing myself I could do it in a major event," Tulloh remembers.

"It was very tactical - you have to adjust your plans according to the situation.

"If the Russian had led all the way, I'd have let him and kicked away at the end.

"But we were all bundled up, so decided to I kick with 700m to go and just kept going."

Bolotnikov and Zimny attempted to reign in the tenacious Brit, but Tulloh used every ounce of energy to hold on for nearly two laps, crossing the line in a time of 14:00.6.

Exhaustion

Despite producing the performance of a lifetime in front of a packed stadium, the new European 5,000m champion had only one thing on his mind.

"I was completely knackered - I just walked to the side of the track and lay down."

Tulloh's moment of glory on the track may have been long ago, but he is still enjoying success through others

As well as writing several books on distance running, he has coached a number of athletes, including 5,000m runner Matt O'Dowd.

However, it seems unlikely that any of his proteges will follow his example and run barefoot in the foreseeable future.


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