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Chris Brasher, 74; Won Olympic Gold, Helped Bannister Break 4-Minute Barrier

March 02, 2003|From Associated Press

Chris Brasher, the 1956 Olympic steeplechase champion and a pacesetter for Roger Bannister's first sub-four-minute mile, died Friday. He was 74.

Brasher died at his home in the village of Chaddleworth, Berkshire, northwest of London, said organizers of the London Marathon, which he helped found in 1981. The cause of death was not announced.

On May 6, 1954, Brasher helped pace Bannister to become the first person to run a mile in less than four minutes. Brasher set the pace with a first lap of 57.5 seconds, and a second of 60.7, for a half-mile time of 1:58.2. Bannister's final four-lap time was 3:59.4.

Two years later, Brasher won the steeplechase gold at the Melbourne Games in 8:41.2, then an Olympic record.

"Chris was gallant and brave right to the end. He had won so many battles in his life," Bannister said Friday. "We had more than 50 years of friendship ... and we mourn him and grieve for his family."

After retiring from running, Brasher worked as a reporter for the British newspaper the Observer and on BBC television. He won the British sportswriter of the year award in 1968 and 1976.

He also set up Brasher Boot Co. in 1983. The lightweight walking boots became one of Britain's leading brands.

Brasher helped start the London Marathon after watching New York's 1979 race. The first London Marathon, on March 29, 1981, had 7,747 starters.

"Chris was one of those rare individuals that could make things happen," London Marathon Chairman Jim Clarke said in a statement. "The hundreds of millions of pounds raised for charity through the marathon are directly attributable to him."

Brasher was born in what is now Guyana, the son of an electrical engineer with the colonial office. Brasher attended St. John's College, Cambridge and, by the age of 22, had led two expeditions to the Arctic.

"He did so much for Britain, from his incomparable Olympic gold medal to founding the London Marathon and preserving tracts of countryside," Bannister said. "We will miss him."

Brasher is survived by his wife, Shirley; and children, Amanda, Hugh and Kate.

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