Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Herb Elliott, Legendary Runner #7

I have to say, it's been very enjoyable researching the accomplishments of these runners. While I do remember reading about them in my younger days, I have found lots of new facts, which only reaffirmed my respect for all the all time greats.

Runner #7 was part of the international scene a very brief time. He finished his career undefeated in over 40 races as a senior runner. He retired at the age of 22 after running one of the most dominating 1500 meter races in Olympic history (pictured to the left courtesy of He ran 17 sub 4 minute miles, which at the time (late 50s/early 60s), was quite an accomplishment. His name was Herb Elliott. He will go down in history as one of the greatest milers (middle distance runners) of all time.

In his youth, Elliott participated in Hockey, Australian Rules Football, Rowing, Rifle Shooting, Cross Country and Athletics (Track and Field). He continued to participate in many sports, even during his college years. During that time, he met his soon to be legendary coach, Percy Cerutty, who promised Elliott that "within two years, you will run a mile in four minutes." While supremely talented in running, Elliott didn't turn his total focus to the sport until he watched the 1956 Olympics in his homeland. Elliott claims that watching Vladimir Kuts dominating efforts over Gordon Pirie in the 5000 and 10000 meter races inspired him to become Cerutty's protege.

Cerutty followed a philosophy that he termed "stotanism" which was due to his admiration for the Spartans. Elliott trained with him during the weekends in Portsea were he followed this philosophy. There, Elliott entrenched himself completely with the beautiful natural surroundings by the sea. He ran with Cerutty up and down sand dunes (seen to the right courtesy of www.menziesera) as well as learn about the values of eating healthy and weight lifting.

Elliott lowered Derek Ibbotson's mile record of 3:57.2 to 3:54.5 in 1958. Elliott also set two 1500 records, 3:36.0 in 1958 and 3:35.6 in his 1960 Olympic victory. His margin of victory in the race was 20 meters, which was then, the largest in Olympic history. Elliott's time in the '60 Olympics would have also won the 1988, 1992 and 1996 Olympic 1500 meter finals. Considering the surface of the race and his age at the time of the effort only adds to the impressive effort by the great Aussie.

Just as quickly that he emerged as a world-class runner, Elliott retired from Track. It would be unheard of now for a runner of his caliber to call it a career at 22. One has to wonder what he could have accomplished with just a few more years of competition.

To learn more about the great runner and his coach, try one of the following books.

Runner #6 will be posted next..

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