Racing Olympian – Chris Brasher

Brasher (left) – hurdle jumper to owner

Chris Brasher was most widely known for his achievements in the world of athletics, where he had three major achievements, the distance growing in each of them. In 1954 he led Chris Chataway and Roger Bannister for the first two laps of Oxford’s Iffley Road athletics track in Bannister’s historic mile race when the four-minute barrier was broken.

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In 1956 at the Melbourne Olympics he won a gold medal in the 3,000 metres steeplechase. Here, it took a stewards enquiry lasting over three hours to confirm his win, so he didn’t receive his medal until the day after his race. After a substantial night celebrating he recalled the ceremony himself, saying he was “blind drunk, totally blotto, on the Olympic podium. I have an asinine grin on my face and nearly fall flat on my face as I lean forward breathing gin fumes all over an IOC Frenchman as he attempts to hang a medal round my neck.” Those were the days.

Finally, in 1980, he introduced the work “fartlek” into the British vocabulary. This set out a Swedish approach to interval training, with alternating periods of walking, jogging, running and sprinting. The programme was covered in a weekly column in the Observer newspaper to help people who had done no serious running before to prepare for his lasting legacy, the London Marathon, first run in 1981.

After his athletics career finished, Brasher turned his interest to the horse racing track, and had several horses in training with Alec Stewart, Henrietta Knight and Gerald Butler. One of his biggest winners was Heart, whom Knight trained to win the Lanzarote Hurdle at Kempton in 2000.

His greatest contribution to racing came through his work with the Racehorse Owners’ Association. He became a member of the ROA Council in 1996, where he was particularly enthusiastic in promoting partnership ownership, an early form of racing syndicate. He was the driving force behind the Dawn Run Partnership, a group of 20 people whose horse Non So was another Lanzarote Hurdle winner.

Brasher inspired everyone who met him, and after his death in 2003, his neighbour, trainer Charlie Egerton summed up a man who carried the Olympic ideal through everything he did. Egerton said, “ He taught me a lot about attitude to sport. He was same in defeat as in victory, and was a tremendous enthusiast. He was a wonderful person to train for because he’d absorb what one was trying to achieve. He was very patient and we had some memorable times together.”

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