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Medal record
Men’s Athletics
Competitor for  Great Britain
Olympic Games
Silver 1956 Melbourne 5000 metres
European Championships
Bronze 1958 Stockholm 5000 metres

Douglas Alistair Gordon Pirie (February 10, 1931–December 7, 1991) was an English long-distance runner and orienteerer born in Leeds, West Riding of Yorkshire, England and died in Lymington, Hampshire.

In 1955 he won the BBC Sports Personality of the Year award. He won silver in the 1956 Summer Olympics in the 5000 metres. Gordon Pirie broke 5 world records in the course of his career, his annus mirabilis being 1956, when on June 19 in Bergen, Norway, he ran 13:36.8 for 5000 m, beating Vladimir Kuts (USSR), and knocking 25 seconds from his own personal best. On June 22 in Trondheim, Norway, he equalled the world 3000 m record with 7:55.6, and on 14 September he set up a new record with 7:52.7. In the Olympics held in Melbourne later that year, Pirie was unlucky. He ran against Kuts the 10,000 metres and although the tactics of Kuts, an aggressive front runner whose bursts of speed were particularly damaging to a long-striding runner like Pirie, he stayed with him into the last mile when every other competitor had dropped well back. Kuts then surrendered the lead for a short while, then made a last, despairing sprint which Pirie could not match and he dropped back. Kuts said later that if Pirie had stayed with him on that last sprint he would have dropped out of the race. In the 5,000 Pirie took second place behind Kuts and probably should have won. Chataway, one of the other British runners, had been selected on past performance. He had not competed at top level for over a year as he was pursuing a media career as a lead-in to what was to be a brief and not very successful career in politics. With Pirie and Ibbotson, the third British runner, he was tracking Kuts and had moved ahead of them was they went into a bend. The Russian was setting a much faster pace than Chataway had ever run and he suffered an attack of stomach cramp which caused him to slow down and as Pirie and Ibbotson came out of the bend they found that Kuts had opened a gap on them. Pirie and Ibbotson ran round Chataway but Kuts was able to exploit his advantage and won the race. For the latter half of the race Pirie was running what was virtually a front race, as Kuts had broken contact, but he was still strong enough to hold off a late challenge by Ibbotson. After the race, Ibbotson commented that, "You can't have a plan with a bloke like Chataway - he wants to do all the running", obviously feeling that if Chataway had stayed behind him and Pirie, they would have kept in contact with Kuts and probably beaten him, as they both had superior finishing speed. Pirie was also unlucky at the Rome Olympics in 1960. The Games were held in the height of the Roman summer and Pirie and other leading UK contestants asked to go on ahead of the main party, at their own expense, so that the might be acclimatised to the heat. They were refused permission, on the grounds that "we travel as a team". It meant that they failed as a team. Pirie and his fellow 5,000m contestants were eliminated in the heats, leaving Pirie's only chance of a gold medal the 10,000m held later in the games. Pirie made the mistake of following the favourite, Murray Halberg of New Zealand. Halberg had won his major championships by making a tactical burst in the last mile of the race and holding onto the lead that he had taken - he had won the 5,000 metres at Rome by that tactic and Pirie's plan was to stay with him as he went forward. Unfortunately for Pirie, Halberg was probably suffering from his effort in the earlier race and as the race went on he failed to stay with the leaders. Pirie, far too late, realised that he and Halberg had lost contact with them. Pirie, a master tactician who completely out-generalled Kuts in their race in June earlier that year, must have lost his nerve to have made such an effort, probably because he knew that the 10,000 metres was his last chance of an Olympic gold. For some years, after he had criticised them, sections of the press had ran a campaign against Pirie and they fully vented their spite after the Olympics. However, in a radio interview soon after the games, the great Australian runner Herb Elliott, referred to Pirie and Ibbotoson who, having broken the world record for the mile in 1957, had never regained the same form and was not selected for Rome. Elliott said, "The British Press is the most vicious in the world. Their attitude to people like Pirie and Ibbotson is 'That bloke's on his way down, I'm going to kick him down and keep him there.'"

Gordon Pirie was an exceptional cross-country runner and won the English Championship three times.

«Guinness Book of Records 1998» lists Gordon Pirie under the «Greatest Mileage» entry, stateing that he had run a total distance of 347,600 km (216,000 miles) in 40 years to 1981.[1]

Running Fast and Injury Free

In his book «Running Fast and Injury Free» Gordon Pirie advocates running with stepping on toes (as opposed to usual style of doing long steps with landing on heels), 3-5 steps per second to reduce fatigue, damage to feet, and wasting of energy on vertical movement of body.

He also describes his collaboration with Adolf Dassler on designing running shoes with stronger toes (instead of usual design with stronger heels) for better durability with his advocated running style.


  1. ^
Preceded by
Hungary Sandor Iharos
Men's 3000 m World Record Holder
June 22, 1956–June 27, 1962
Succeeded by
France Michel Jazy
Preceded by
England Christopher Chataway
BBC Sports Personality of the Year
Succeeded by
England Jim Laker


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