From Last to First, by Charlie Spedding: RBR Brook Review by Jeff Benjamin, note by Larry Eder

Spedding book.jpg
Last to First,  by Charlie Spedding

The 1984 Olympics were a revelation for me. My training partner, Tim Gruber and I, had the fortune to train with 1983 World Champ Rob De Castella and his crew before LA. We took Rob into Nisene Marks, near Santa Cruz and for two and a half hours, Rob flew over the trails with Tim.

Another day, they did this workout of 8 quarters in 62-63 seconds with 40 second float 200s in between. I was running with Dick Telford, my soleus a bit tight, and we did 72-73 for the 8 quarters with 45 second float 200s, good for us, and a wonderful position to see Rob and Tim flying down the track at San Jose City College.

We were stunned that Rob did not medal in LA. I recall a picture of Carlos Lopes, John Treacy and Charlie Spedding, with about a mile to go in LA. Spedding and Treacy had surprised everyone, as had 37 year old Carlos Lopes.

Carlos Lopes, the 1976 Olympic silver medalist at 10,000 meters, World Cross Country Champ, was a bit of a surprise, but not completely. John Treacy, two time World Cross Country champ, was also a pedigree distance runner. Charlie Spedding, a good internationalist from UK, was unknown to many in US. So, who is this Charlie Spedding?

You will find out in this book. I can attest that Charlie Spedding is as modest as they come. A thoughtful man, he used his god-given talents and then some, and ran some of the most remarkable races in British marathon history (do not forget his duel with Steve Jones in London ). 

This is a review of Charlie Spedding's book, From Last to First, by long time contributor Jeff Benjamin. We hope that you enjoy it.

Book Review--by Jeff Benjamin
Without a doubt, the 1984 Los Angeles Olympic games stand out as truly memorable for many Track and Field/Running fans. Carl Lewis, Sebatian Coe, Joan Benoit, Said Aouita, Mary Decker, Edwin Moses, and Evelyn Ashford will always be a part of the American track psyche, either for their successes or failures. Perhaps the most anticipated event for running fans, the Men's Marathon, epitomizes these feelings as well. Arguably the most talented field ever assembled, the 26.2 mile classic consisteed of the truly great names in world marathoning. Toeing the line on this hot, humid day, were the likes of Rob DeCastella, Toshihiko Seko, Juma Ikangaa, Alberto Salazar, Rod Dixon, Geoff Smith, Joseph Nzau and a whole list of whos -who of world Marathoning. Yet, in the end, three relatively unknowns to the mainstream fan would be on the medal stand. The gold medal was won by Portugal's 37 year old World XC Champion Carlos Lopes in an Olympic record, followed by another World XC champion, John Treacy of Ireland. The most unknown medalist of all was Charlie Spedding, who earned the Bronze medal. Out of the three medalists, the Englishman Spedding was without a doubt the least known. His guts and perseverance, and most of all his ability to believe in himself are qualities which are the major themes in his autobiographical book, From Last to First .
Speddings' book title basically says it all. As a student in his early years, he was, well, last! The same could be said of mostly anything he tried to achieve in his formative years. Even when he began to get into running, the same pattern seemed to be taking shape again! But through faith and determination, coupled with a truly modest view of himself sprinkled along with good humor, Spedding was able to mix it up on both the national scene in England, and eventually on the world stage as well, culminating in his surprising (not to him) Bronze medal performance in 1984.
Spedding commonly goes through how much he sacrificed to achieve his goal. There are funny stories about his social life and how running either helped or hurt him in certain situations. It also shows an athlete who was willing to race anyone head-on whenver the event was taking place. There is a great photo in the book of Spedding in a road ace against some of runnings' best, notably Seb Coe and Eammon Coughlin. Even after his great performance in 1984, Spedding continues to show how his  qualities never deserted him as he competed in the London Marathon, setting a British record later on. Perhaps the second best part of the book was his drive to make the 1988 Olympic Marathon team and, despite a rough time with injuries, his ability to turn in a solid performance in Seoul!
Some would argue that the 1984 Olympic Marathon was the last race of the quasi Amateur/Professional runners who were in between both categories. While prize money deservingly was being given to runners at this point, agents were still far and few between, and, for almost all runners (Most who were not making a living just yet off of the sport), the chance to compete in the Olympic Games was looked upon as truly the pinacle,and not some outside track meet with appearnace money and bonuses being the norm. More amazingly was the interesting fact that every top competitor was there in what they believed was the best shape of their life! While every runner in the race had dreamed of pursuing an Olympic medal, Charlie Spedding, the unknown and unheralded runner, was making his dream a reality by sticking to his faith and qualities which brought him there in the first place! A truly good book with inspiration and fun all over it!!

Leave a comment

Wake up to RunBlogRun's news in your inbox. Sign up for our newsletter and we'll keep you informed about the Sport you love.

Subscribe to RunBlogRun's Global News Feed

* indicates required