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UK Athletics

david bedford

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David Bedford

Date of Birth: 30 December 1949

Born: London

Club: Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers

Coach: Bob Parker.

Career summary


Red socks, record honour

ONE of the most recognisable characters in the history of British athletics - thanks to his drooping moustache, long hair and desire for the extraordinary - David Bedford remains among the greatest distance runners these shores have produced. He never won a major gold medal, but his place in the history books are secure. Any man can be forgiven for delighting the crowds by wearing red socks on occasions as part of his kit when he can boast being world record holder at 10,000m. His finest moment arrived on July 13, 1973, at the AAA Championships at Crystal Palace when he ran 27:30.8 - and he is the only Briton to hold this title. It was the first time since Chris Chattaway’s 5000m triumph in 1954 that a Briton had broken a world record over a recognised Olympic distance and Bedford achieved the honour backed by an adoring public.


At the double

An early sign of his desire for the unexpected had been established in 1970, at Hampstead Heath, in North London, the base where he trained when, at the Southern Cross Championships, he won both the Senior Nine Mile and Junior Six mile races...all within an hour. He had landed International cross-country titles in 1969 as a junior and senior in 1971, but often disappointed in major track races, where his lack of a finishing kick let him down, leaving him 6th in the 1971 European 10,000m, 12th at 5000m and 6th at 10,000m in the 1972 Olympics. Yet whether he succeeded or not, the guts he would show on the track would whip the crowd into a frenzy and famously before those Olympic Games in Munich in 1972, he told the fans back home to “stop what they were doing to watch him win a gold medal“. It did not work out that way, when he finished sixth in the 10,000m and then 12 th in the 5000m. But the following summer, he responded in only the way Bedford could - by breaking the 10,000m world record.

Marathon man

A member of Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers, Bedford was National cross-country champion in 1971 and 1973, and won five successive AAA titles at 10,000m from 1970 to 1974, adding the 5000m title in 1972. His British records included four at 10,000m from 28:24.4 at the age of 19, and at 2000m, 3000m, 5000m and 3000m steeplechase 8:28.6 (1971). The 5000m at the Commonwealth Games in Auckland in 1974 - where he finished a disappointing 11 th after being fourth at 10,000m - was his last major championship performance and when injuries brought his career to a premature end, he remained actively involved with his club and with the International Athletes Club in the promotion of athletics. He was secretary of the AAA of England between 1993-4, a foundation for the path his career has now taken as Race Director of the Virgin London Marathon. His ability to attract some of the greatest distance runners in history has made the event arguably the finest marathon in the world.


Never forgotten

Bedford found himself back on the news pages of the British media when in October 2003, he sued telephone company 118, 118 for using his image to promote their new directory enquiry services. A television advert with two runners with droopy moustaches and wearing red socks were featured and though he later dropped his claim for £200,000 compensation, communications regulator Ofcom ruled that the runners were a ‘caricature’ of Bedford. When new adverts appeared, the two runners still had their moustaches but had different hair cuts. Even 30 years on from his world record, here was proof of the enduring image he had brought to the sport.


International Championships

1971: 6th 10000m Europeans
1972: 12th 5000m, 6th 10000m Olympics
1974: 11th 5000m, 4th 10000m Commonwealth Games
International CC: 1969- 1st Jnr, 1970- 95, 1971- 1, 1977- 45
UK Internationals: 8 (1969-73)

National Championships

Won AAA 5000m 1972, 10000m 1970-4, Junior 2M 1968; National CC 1971, 1973, National Youth CC 1968.

Personal bests
1500m 3:47.0 91972), 1M 4:02.9 (1969), 2000m 5:03.16 (1972), 3000m 7:46.4 (1972), 2M 8:35.0 (1973), 5000m 13:17.21 (1972), 10000m 27:30.8 (1973), 3000m steeplechase 8:28.6 (1971), Marathon 2:45:02 (1978)

Indoors: 3000m 7:53.4 (1972)