As the Jarrow Arrow celebrates his landmark birthday, Steve Smythe picks out his best performances
For those who remember Steve Cram as the world’s greatest teenage 1500m and mile runner, it’s hard getting your head around the fact that he has reached the grand old age of 60.
Now one of the world’s most respected broadcasters with a growing reputation as a coach and race organiser, it’s worth remembering that the Jarrow & Hebburn athlete was one of the world’s greatest runners and at his best – you would probably focus more on the five-year period between 1982 and 1986 – one of Britain’s greatest ever athletes.
He won most of his medals in 1982, 1983, 1984 and 1986 but it was his 1985 year when he set three world records in 19 days that still seems remarkable 35 years on.
If it wasn’t for injury, it could have been even more. There were glimpses in 1988 of him being almost back at his best but a frustrating fourth place in Seoul in an injury-ravaged year proved to be his last Olympic and global final.
We have chosen 60 of his best races over the years and you can read about the top 20 below. AW magazine subscribers can find the full 60-strong list in the AW Clubhouse here.
They are not chosen purely on time – for example a 3:33 1500m PB in his development years or a title won is deemed of more significance than a 3:33 at his peak in a grand prix race with pacemakers.
Mile: 1st 3:46.32 (world record)
Bislett Games, Oslo, July 27, 1985
Nine days after setting the 1500m world record, Cram took on Olympic champion Sebastian Coe and had no thoughts of the record as, after a slow third lap, he went through the bell ahead without any effort in 2:53.14.
However, he was full of running and by blasting through the last 200m in 25.39, he took over a second off Coe’s world mark. Jose Luis Gonzalez followed him home in 3:47.79 with a demoralised Coe third (3:49.22).
It lasted as a world record for eight years and 35 years later it is still an unchallenged European and British record and worldwide only three men have run faster.
Read Jason Henderson’s article on the ‘dream mile’ here.
1500m: 1st 3:29.67 (world record)
Nice, July 16, 1985
In one of the greatest and most notable middle-distance races, Cram made history with the first sub-3:30. He powered past 1200m in 2:49.66, yet he was almost caught in a dramatic sprint by Said Aouita’s African record 3:29.71.
Cram’s last 400m was 53.4 and it was the biggest advance in the world record since Jim Ryun 18 years earlier.
1500m: 1st 3:41.59
World Championships 1500m, Helsinki, August 14, 1983
Cram followed Said Aouita’s kick from 500m out and finished strongly (52.0 last lap and 1:49.0 last 800m) to comfortably become the first ever world champion as he won from Steve Scott (3:41.87) and Aouita (3:42.02) and he defeated a poor tactical Steve Ovett (3:42.34) for the first time.
800m: 1st 1:43.22
Commonwealth Games, Edinburgh July 31, 1986
Produced a devastating 25.0 last 200m in a fast race to improve his world lead as he easily beat Tom McKean (1:44.80) and Peter Elliott (1:45.42) as Coe withdrew due to illness.
1500m: 1st 3:41.09
European Championships, Stuttgart, August 31, 1986
After suffering a defeat to Coe at 800m, Cram bounced back to win easily with a powerful driving 50.8 last lap to leave Coe (3:41.67) well behind.
800m: 1st 1:42.88 (PB)
Zurich, August 21, 1985
In a year he set three world records, many were as shocked by this run as by his records as he easily kicked past Olympic 800m champion Joaquim Cruz (1:43.23) and took almost a second off his PB and go fourth all-time.
1000m: 1st 2:12.88 (PB)
Gateshead, August 9, 1985
But for very strong winds, he would have made it four world records in 24 days as he attacked Coe’s mark set on a perfect Oslo summer evening. He passed 800m in 1:44.94 but the wind proved too much and he fell short by 0.67 of a second with his UK all-comers’ record. Only one athlete has gone quicker in the last 35 years and it still ranks third all-time.
1500m, 2nd 3:33.40
Olympic Games, Los Angeles, August 11, 1984
Still not 100% fit after injury and was unable to challenge Coe who was at his very best (3:32.53) and he was also way inside the old Olympic record and had to settle for a superb silver.
1500m: 1st 3:36.49
European Championships, Athens, September 11, 1982
When rival Graham Williamson fell, he pushed on and ran a brave 55.4 third lap and held on over a painful final circuit to win his first major senior title from Olympic 800m bronze medallist Nikolay Kirov (3:36.99).
2000m: 1st 4:51.39
Budapest, August 4, 1985
After already having broken 1500m and mile marks, he made it three records in 19 days as he ran a solo second half passing 1200m in 2:54.58 and 1600m in 3:53.95 and he beat Walker’s mark (4:51.4) by the narrowest of margins as he won by over 10 seconds from Sean Cahill (5:02.35).
1500m: 1st 3:42.37
Commonwealth Games, Brisbane, October 9, 1982
In a slow, tactical and messy race, he produced a 50.9 final lap to easily defeat John Walker (3:43.11) and Mike Boit (3:43.33).
Mile: 1st 3:52.56
IAC Coca-Cola Meeting, Crystal Palace, September 9, 1983
In one of the most fondly remembered domestic battles, in a great atmosphere, he controlled the last lap for a narrow win over Ovett (3:52.71) who had just regained the 1500m world record five day earlier.
Two miles, 1st 8:14.93 (PB) (3000m 7:43.1 PB)
England International, Crystal Palace, August 29 1983
In his best ever race over the slightly longer distances and largely solo, he missed Ovett’s world best by a second.
800m: 1st 1:43.61 (PB)
Oslo, August 23, 1983
Nine days after becoming world 1500m champion, he smashed his PB with the year’s fastest time, chased hard all the way by World Champs 800m fourth-placer Peter Elliott (1:43.98).
1500m: 1st 3:31.34 (PB)
Oslo, June 27, 1985
Six days after a loss to Coe at 800m in the GB v USA match, improved his PB in his first major 1500m of the year as he easily defeated Scott (3:34.58) and go third all-time.
1500m: 1st 3:30.15
Brussels, September 5, 1986
Made a great attempt to regain his world record back from Aouita and up at 1200m (2:48.73) he had to settle for his second best ever time as he easily beat Olympic medallist Jose Abascal (3:33.98).
1500m: 1st 3:31.66 (PB)
Brussels, August 26, 1983
Three days after setting an 800m PB, he took two seconds off his PB and missed Ovett’s world record by just 0.3 of a second, well clear of José Luís González (3:33.44).
1 Mile: 4th 3:57.42 (PB)
Emsley Carr Mile: Crystal Palace, July 2, 1978
In his first ever mile he finished a fraction behind Brendan Foster and broke Jim Ryun’s world age-17 record.
3000m: 1st 8:05.18
European Junior Championships, July 14, 1979
Used his speed to win his first major title out-sprinting Jurgen Mattern (8:05.5) as fellow Brits Williamson and Steve Binns won the 1500m and 5000m respectively.
800m: 1st 1:43.19
Rieti, September 7, 1986
Went slightly quicker than his Commonwealth race that year to set a world lead as he won on the notoriously fast track from William Wuyke (1:43.54).
For more, including two Olympic finals, world leads, world age records, European and Commonwealth medals, a world relay record and British titles at 800m, 1500m and 5000m, visit the AW Clubhouse here – AW subscribers gain access as part of their magazine subscription package.