Talkback: Emil Zatopek: The Greatest Champion?

Dr RobertDr Robert ✭✭✭

Sorry, is that one hundred times around a 400m track at less than 72 seconds per lap? Within four hours? In training? Is this a joke or a mistake? Flippin' 'eck!

 Is there anyone in Britain that could do that as a one-off today? A bottle of pop says the isn't!



  • Fantastic distance runner.

  • Great article love these kind. More please.
  • Those interested in another story which he was a part of should check out the book "The Ghost Runner: The Tradgedy of the Man they couldnt stop" by Bill Jones.....


    Dr Robert - I think they mean 72 seconds per 400m lap, followed by a 200m jog, one hundred times

  • Read 'Zatopek, Zatopek, Zatopek' by Bob Phillips from 2002.

  • Lasse Viren came closest in  1976 to emulating Zatopek 1952 treble, when he won Gold in 5000m. 10,000m then finished a brave 5th in the Marathon.

  • Zatopek, Zatopek, Zatopek is an reall good read.  Great runner and a great man by all accounts.

  • Was it Steve Jones who was leading the Olympic Marathon and Zatopec was in the lead group, having a chat? (!) He said that this was his first marathon race and were they going fast enough. I think it was Jones who said, that if he felt he could go faster, then he should. Zatopek said he was bored, and upped the pace to win it.

    (Names and events may be incorrect, but the story's a good one)

  • It was Jim Peters mate. Steve Jones a bit later mid 1980simage

  • 100 x  400 metre intervals is insane.

    Putting aside the extraordinary level of fitness needed, the mental strength required to complete such a session (especially as he must have done it on his own) is "off the scale". Can you imagine completing say 20 of those intervals, feeling the pain and then realising you've got another 80 to go !

    Got to be the "toughest" runner of all time and always will be one of the all-time greats.

    I agree with Birkmyre. A really great article and these Olympic related stories have been far and away the best thing in the magazine in recent months. I thought the ones on Kelly Holmes and John Carlos/Tommie Smith were also particularly good.

  • DavidJones39: Good to hear from you again. Agreed these are what should be in a running magazine. 'The Guardian' has a series of  some classic Olympic Moments currently. 

    Got Jim Peters book 'In the long run' in cupboard. Haven't read it in ages.

     I also remember ( oh no here we go againimage) there was a classic interview with Emil Zatopek in the August 1985edition of  'Running' Magazine.

  • I used to do 10 x 400m and thought I'd trained hard on track with that session...

  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭

    Just read that Zatopeks standard training session was 20 x 200m; 40 x 400m; 20 x 200m. This was pretty much all the type of training he did. All like this, all on the track. Everyday. 

    So, now that we have defined the meaning of boredom....

  • Glad this article is getting some decent comments. It certainly deserves some .

  • That's interesting Dreamtwister/RicF, I'd heard the "100 x 400m intervals" story before and it's one of those stories that's so incredible  I really hoped it was true !

    Even if the reality was a little less extreme, that is still an incredible training regime (It'd be a brave coach who suggested something similar today...). It certainly worked for him, but he must have been incredibly injury resilient.

    Hi Birkmyre - always good to read your posts. 

  • hillstriderhillstrider ✭✭✭

    I believe he also did a lot of training in heavy army boots, and chopped down trees to build up his strength.

  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭

    And did half squats with his wife on his shoulders. I assume she wasn't 18 stone but then again I doubt it would have made much difference.

  • His wife was the Olympic javelin champion - so she must have been fairly "well built" !

  • David: That is certainly cross training with a difference eh.image

  • The greatest distance runner ever ?

  • Interesting question - Zatopek or Gebrsellasie ?

    On balance, I'd go for Gebrsellaise too, mainly due to the sheer number of years he's kept on producing world class performances.

  • David/Dream Where would you place him in Top 3 of all time distance runners then ?




  • Just going on those I've seen, my top 3 would be:

    1. Gebrsellasie

    2. Bikele

    3. Viren

    However, I think what Zatopek did was so extraordinary for the time that, although his PB's don't look that special today, I'd still put him at no.2 on my list.

    I'd still pick Haile as my number 1 though. PB's ranging from 3'31" at 1500 m (indoors) to 2' 03' 59" at the Marathon, plus 19 years between his first World Championship 10,000m and last Sunday's 27'39" 10k, "plus plus" all the Olympic medals, WC medals and world records.

    But we'll all have different opinions and I don't profess to be an expert !




  • One of the early distance runners to catch my attention (apart from Brendan Foster )was Yifter. Yifter the shifter' as I recall David Coleman called him.

    I'll need to consider the answer to my own question .

  • Okay after much thinking

    1. Gebresalaise

    2. Zatopek


  • Not a bad call Birkmyre and I'd definitely agree with you on numbers 1 and 2.

    I'd just put Bekele above Viren, mainly because of his 5K and 10K world records, which really are almost unbelievable, and his final lap in winning 10,000m gold at the 2008 Olympics.

    The other contender based on a "one off" performance is Daniel Komen. I still watch his 3,000 m world record on Youtube in awe. Whether it was "artificially aided" or not, for pure sustained speed it is quite extraordinary.

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