ISBN 978-0-6485614-0-8

The Five and Ten Men


The story of ten men who helped define modern distance running.

The modern era of distance running, which began in the early part of last century, has been characterised by ever faster times and new records as the limits of endurance have been continually re-defined. The world records of today would have been largely unimaginable to previous generations of runners.

The classic events on the track for distance runners are the 5,000 and 10,000 metres, and over the period covered in this book, the world records have been reduced by over two minutes for 5,000 metres, and five minutes for the 10,000 metres. The records for both distances have been broken many times by many runners from a wide variety of countries.

However, despite the similarities in the physical requirements for each of the distances, only ten men have succeeded in breaking the world record for both events, making for an extremely select group. The group comprises runners from Finland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Russia, Australia, Kenya and Ethiopia.

Each came to the sport in a different way, reflecting both the era in which they competed and the country in which they were born. This book looks at these individuals, their sporting careers, the way they trained, their personalities, and the times in which they competed. It is the story of ten men who changed what was thought possible in the field of human endurance.


About the Author

I have always been interested in distance running. Not quite sure why. It is certainly not because of any great ability on my part. On the distance running continuum I would place myself as average – not completely hopeless, but a long, long way from world class. My only ever decent run was somewhat tainted – being disqualified (later re-instated) after winning the state marathon title many years ago. The crime? Wearing the wrong coloured shorts. Let’s just say that my interest and enthusiasm for the sport far outweighed my ability.

It is this interest, and the wish to impart something of the history of the sport that brought me to the point of writing this book. The subjects chose themselves. Of the many record holders over the classic distances of five and ten thousand metres, there have only ever been ten who have held both records. Were it to be a book on the ten greatest distance runners the list would probably not be much different. Each in their own way played a significant part in showing just what was possible, and in so doing raised the bar for those to follow.

I often say that the hardest world record to break or gold medal to win is the 100metres, simply because probably just about everybody at some stage runs a 100m race. If you have some ability it is going to become apparent pretty early. Training will build upon whatever natural ability is present. The distance events are probably not far behind. Requiring little in the way of equipment or facilities, just about anybody can find out fairly easily if they have an aptitude for the sport. That of course is the easy part. The hard part is maximizing what ability they might have.