Ian Thompson (runner)

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Ian Thompson
Medal record
Men's athletics
Representing  Great Britain
European Championships
Gold medal – first place 1974 Rome Marathon
Representing  England
Commonwealth Games
Gold medal – first place 1974 Christchurch Marathon

Ian Reginald Thompson (born 16 October 1949) is an English long-distance runner, who gained success in marathon running. His Commonwealth Games marathon record set in 1974 remains unbeaten.

Running career[edit]

Making up the numbers[edit]

Born in the town of Birkenhead, Cheshire (now Merseyside), Ian Thompson was regarded as just an ordinary club athlete and ranked 90th in Britain's 5,000 metres list at the time,[1] but suddenly broke through to world class as a marathon runner when asked to make up the numbers for his club, Luton United, in the Amateur Athletic Association of England (AAA) marathon championship on 27 October 1973. It was his first race of over 10 miles, but he won in 2:12:40, at the time, the fastest ever debut at the distance and qualified him for the Commonwealth Games three months later

Commonwealth gold[edit]

Thompson travelled to Christchurch for the 1974 British Commonwealth Games with little expectation that he would be able to reproduce the performance that got him there. This was not the case however and he won with a margin of over 2 minutes in a time of 2:09:12, the fastest ever run in a championship race, a British record and only 39 seconds off the then world record of 2:08:34.[nb 1] This is currently (19 September 2020) the eighth fastest time by a British athlete (according to runbritainrankings.com) and still a Commonwealth Games record.[4]

European gold[edit]

In the early autumn of 1974, Thompson competed at the European Championships in Rome, again he proved to be the class act of the field. He stayed with the leading group until the 20 kilometre mark and then steadily opening up a gap on the rest of the field[5] that stood at 98 seconds when he won in a time of 2:13:18.8.

Thompson's achievements were recognised in the 1974 SJA Annual Sports awards, where he was runner up to John Conteh in the Sportsmen of the Year category.[6]


In 1976, he suffered cramps and finished only seventh in the trials for the Olympics, for which he was not selected. Although for many years among Britain's best, he never regained his 1974 eminence and contested only one more major championship. He won the AAA title in 1980 to gain selection for the Moscow Olympics but dropped out at the Games. His best times each year between 1977 and 1982 were in the 2:12 to 2:15 range.

Personal life[edit]

His wife Margaret was an early pioneer of marathon running for women in Britain and ran a British best time of 3:07:47 in Korso, Finland on 26 October 1975 and for a few months they held both the men and women's British marathon records, until Margaret's time was beaten by Christine Readdy (Kilkenny) in Feltham on 4 April 1976. Margaret (nee Tunstall) trained at Bedford College of Physical Education. At the time of his victory at the Commonwealth Games Thompson was studying for a PGCE at Trinity and All Saints College (TASC).[7]

Thompson was famously quoted at his 1974 peak as saying "I prefer to remain in blissful ignorance of the opposition. That way I'm not frightened by anyone's reputation".[8]

Personal Bests[edit]

Event Time Date Location
Marathon 2:09:12 31 January 1974 Christchurch
25,000 m 1:17:36.4 15 May 1975 Oulu
15,000 m 44:56.0 15 May 1975 Oulu
10,000 m 29:33.0 1979
5,000 m 14:05.4 19 June 1971 Cardiff
1,500 m 3:51.0 1969
One hour 19.831 km 15 May 1975 Oulu


Event Time Date Location Result
AAA Marathon 2:12:40 27 October 1973 Harlow 1st
Orion Harriers Fifteen 1:24:14 24 March 1973 Epping Forest 2nd
Commonwealth Games Marathon 2:09:12 31 January 1974 Christchurch 1st
Athens Marathon 2:13:50.2 6 April 1974 Athens 1st
European Championships Marathon 2:13:18.8 8 September 1974 Rome 1st
Fukuoka Marathon 2:12:54 5 December 1976 Fukuoka 2nd
Amsterdam Marathon 2:17:47.4 21 May 1977 Amsterdam 4th
Polytechnic Marathon 2:14:32 11 June 1977 Windsor 1st
New York City Marathon[9] 2:17:46.0 23 October 1977 New York 13th
Auckland Marathon[10] 2:03:31 13 November 1977 Auckland 3rd
Auckland Marathon 2:13:49 12 November 1978 Auckland 1st
New York City Marathon[9] 2:14:12 22 October 1978 New York 2nd
Montreal Marathon 2:15:24 26 August 1979 Montreal 6th
New York City Marathon[9] 2:13:43 21 October 1979 New York 4th
AAA Marathon 2:14:00 3 May 1980 Milton Keynes 1st
London to Brighton Race 5:15:15 28 September 1980 London 1st
Stockholm Marathon 2:19:25 23 August 1980 Stockholm 3rd
Tokyo Marathon 2:14:39 1 March 1981 Tokyo 7th
Duchy Marathon 2:27:53 29 March 1981 Cornwall 1st
Amatrice-Configno 8.4 km 24:45.8 18 August 1981 Amatrice 1st
Birmingham Marathon 2:13:50 20 September 1981 Birmingham 1st
Romatona Marathon 2:12:09 14 March 1982 Rome 2nd
Geneva Marathon 2:15:28 21 March 1982 Geneva 2nd
Paris Marathon 2:14:07 16 May 1982 Paris 1st
Intercontinental Istanbul Eurasia Marathon 2:32:35 November 1983 Istanbul 1st
Paris Marathon 2:17:14 14 May 1983 Paris 3rd
Stoke-on-Trent City Marathon 2:20:54 17 June 1984 Stoke-on-Trent 1st
Manchester Marathon 2:16:08 1 July 1984 Manchester 1st
Guernsey Marathon 2:25:22 25 August 1986 Saint Peter Port 2nd
Malta Marathon 2:29:06 15 February 1987 Malta 1st


  1. ^ The International Association of Athletics Federations has published a progression of road racing world bests and records that were widely recognised prior to ratification and official acceptance by the IAAF. According to that progression, Derek Clayton's 2:08:34 performance in Antwerp on 30 May 1969 was a world best at the time.[2] Other road racing authorities, including the Association of Road Racing Statisticians, consider Clayton's performance to have occurred on a short course and recognise other athletes – including Thompson – in the progression for world best in the marathon.[3]


  1. ^ Independent, The (London) – 20 July 2002, Whatever happened to Ian Thompson
  2. ^ "12th IAAF World Championships in Athletics: IAAF Statistics Handbook. Berlin 2009" (PDF). Monte Carlo: IAAF Media & Public Relations Department. 2009. pp. 546, 563, 565, 651, and 653. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 June 2011. Retrieved 15 May 2010.
  3. ^ Association of Road Racing Statisticians, World Best Progressions- Road. Retrieved 15 May 2010.
  4. ^ 1974 Commonwealth Games Full Marathon Result Archived 12 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Independent, The (London) – 4 August 2002, Replay 8 September 1974
  6. ^ sportsjournalists.co.uk Archived 14 October 2006 at the Wayback Machine – SJA Annual Sports awards
  7. ^ Hegarty, James. "1966-2006: Celebrating 40 Years of Learning" (PDF): 59. Retrieved 15 August 2018. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  8. ^ marathonrookie.com – Quotes about Running
  9. ^ a b c measurements on subsequent course were 150 m short, this course probably short as well
  10. ^ ca 39.73 km

External links[edit]