Foster reflects on 37 years behind the mic

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Brendan Foster: A Life in Athletics
Brendan Foster: A Life in Athletics
Saturday, July 29 13:15 BST on BBC One

Nine summer Olympics, nine Commonwealth Games, every World Championships since its inception in 1983 and all the 37 runnings of the London Marathon.

Brendan Foster’s commentary career, which has spanned almost 40 years and borne witness to some of the greatest moments and athletes in history, is coming to an end after next month’s World Championships.

The 69-year-old, who competed for Great Britain at three Olympics before taking up the microphone, picks out the highlights of his commentary career.

Top three athletes

“Recently, clearly, my favourite has been Mo Farah, the winner of an unprecedented set of medals at the very highest level.

“During the middle of my career, it was Ethiopian great Haile Gebrselassie.

“And at the beginning of my career it would have been Seb Coe.”

Best performance

Gebrselassie’s victory over Tergat was a repeat of his success over the Kenyan four years previously at Atlanta

“The best performance I ever commentated on was Haile Gebrselassie winning the 10,000m at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney.

“He hadn’t trained for three or four weeks beforehand because of an injury.

“The rest of the field did not know and Kenya’s Paul Tergat, who was arguably the fastest in the world at the time, did not take advantage.

“Gebrselassie should never have won that race but he did because he just had not learned how to lose.

“He was not fit enough to win, but he dug it out and did not show anyone that he was in pain.

“He could not run a lap of honour at the end, he had to walk it instead. He didn’t run again that year.

“It was a heroic performance, that is why it stands out in my memory.”

Favourite race

“Mo Farah winning in the 10,000m in London 2012 was the most exciting race I have seen.

Farah powers to Olympic gold

“Could this guy, who hadn’t even made the final in 2008, really deliver on the form he had showed and win gold in front of a home crowd?

“He could.”

Favourite moment

Bekele (left) edged out Farah (centre) to win the 2013 Great North Run with Gebreselassie (right) third

“In the Great North Run in 2013 we had Mo Farah, Haile Gebrselassie and Kenenisa Bekele – three greatest athletes of all time – competing in the race I had founded, running past Gateshead Stadium where I had made my name by breaking the 3,000m world record in 1974.

“The combination of those three elements made for a very emotional moment.”

Favourite event:

“London 2012, an event that will never be forgotten.”

Funniest moment

Steve Jones (2) and Charlie Spedding (1) leading the 1985 London Marathon. Jones went on to win despite his unscheduled pitstop

“It was 1985 and Steve Jones and Charlie Spedding were running neck and neck, one and two, at the London Marathon.

“At that time we did not have many cameras. We switched from a shot of the two of them together to a brass band playing near the Cutty Sark.

“When we cut back, Charlie was running on his own with Steve out of shot.

“Next time we saw Steve he was rubbing his hamstring and I said to my co-commentator David Coleman, ‘it looks like Steve Jones has had to stop because of a cramp’.

“David, noticing that Steve was cleaning his leg rather than rubbing his muscles, said ‘I think you have got one letter wrong there.'”

What I’ll miss most

“It is the privilege of translating my thoughts and views on something I love to the most knowledgeable athletics audience in the world.

“The BBC athletics audience have been watching the sport since the four-minute mile 60-odd years ago.

“That is a privilege I’ll miss.”

Foster chooses his favourite London Marathon moments

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