For Sebastian Coe, 1983 seemed to be the beginning of another banner year!
With many World record performances going back four years over distances consisting of the 800 meters, 1500 meters, and the Mile, Coe’s tough winter running (under the supervision of his Father/Coach Peter Coe) and weight training (guided by George Gandy) seemed to be leading to upwards 1983 performances as well, culminating at the first ever World Outdoor Track & Field Championships being held in the summer at Helsinki!
Yet Coe felt something was off.
“I was finding it harder to train than before,” recalled Coe.
“There was frustration in that I would have one or two good workouts but then would feel frustrated with others.”
“It wasn’t quite right.”
Most runners at any level would just chalk up the inconsistency to the effects of training. As one person once put it , “The closer one is to peak, the closer one is to a breakdown.” But Coe was feeling other types of effects during his training period.
“I was a student again during this time and, aside from feeling “off” I was also finding it hard to study and read.”
Seb Coe with Sven Arne Hansen, photo from European Athletics
“Cracking On!” (As the Brits say!), in Coe ran a winning indoor 1500 meter race ((3:42.60) in February of ‘83 on Britain’s indoor track in Cosford, despite informing the media he was suffering from time to time with a glandular fever.
Then, before a packed house, Coe would return to Cosford again in March to compete in the GB VS USA 800 enters.
“The indoor track at Cosford was kind of new in that it was a rubberized banked track with concrete under it,” said Coe. “It was an old RAF base World War 2 training center airbase.”
“It was our only indoor track in Britain!”
Conditions were not exactly conducive for Coe and the other competitors either.
“It was so cold in there you warmed up in 4 sweatshirts!” recalled Coe. “Most of the heat was generated by the crowd!”
The crowd also gave off inspiration for Coe. Competing against fellow Brit Peter Elliott and Americans Gerry Masterson and Scott Ryder, Coe followed
pacemaker Colin Szwed through a 51-second 400 split and then, all alone, surged away majestically, clocking 1 minute 44.91 seconds to smash his own world mark by more than a second!
“I’m not that sharp and nowhere near race fit,” said Coe at the time. “I would have been satisfied to run 1.46. But I do enjoy running indoors, and I have had a good winter’s training after the disappointments of injury and illness last year. In fact, I feel as happy with my training at this time of year than I have ever felt.”
“Looking back now,” noted Coe, “My race wasn’t disastrous, but I still didn’t feel right.”
Watching the film of the record race, this writer noted a subtly more gaunt figure in Coe at the start and finish, yet still looking like the World-Record beater during the race. Could it have been a by-product of his on-and-off illness?
“That could be right,” said Coe. “My race wasn’t bad…I just wasn’t feeling on top of the world.”
One week later, at the invite of Svein Arne Hansen, Coe traveled to Oslo for a rare indoor track performance, breaking his 1000 indoor record in a time of 2:18.58!
“That race took place in an indoor sports hall and was broadcast on Norwegian TV,” recalled Coe. “Linford Christie and Mike McFarland were there as well.”
The Olympians, by Sebastian Coe
“It was very compacted, and because of these large pillars in the center, the races became somewhat obscured.”
“I also remember that there was not much of a crowd like in Cosford, but there were great officials and timekeepers all along the track…I pretty much ran it on my own as a time trial.”
Yet after this record-setting performance, Coe felt “The Ides Of March” closing in.
“I began feeling month after month that I was falling off even though I still trained,” said Coe.
“I was really running badly.”
In a few months, Coe would find out that it wasn’t just his running that was suffering but his whole body.
To Be Continued.