Blocks, 2007 USATF Outdoor, photo by PhotoRun.net
Jeff Benjamin, one of our long time writers, reviewed the very cool, very geek, Athletics Weekly series of three books on Great British Runners, Great Marathoner Runners and The Greatest Olympic Athletes . Here is Jeff's commentary on the three volumes and why, he believes, you should rush out and purchase them!
Athletics Weekly 3 Volume Series
By Jeff Benjamin
If you talk with any veteran Track & Field/ Running coach, athlete or afficianado, they will all tell you that, in the pre-internet days, there were 2 magazines that were eagerly anticipated upon their arrival in the mailbox-- Track and Field News and the British publication, Athletics Weekly. With it's distinctly European flavor, and its' historical perspective stories on great events and athletes of the past, Athletics Weekly still holds a special place in their hearts. Now, to coincide with the upcoming London Olympics, the staff over at Athletics Weekly have published an invaluable 3 volume set of books which will introduce the new fan to the greatness of the sport, as well as find a warm place in the heart of the veteran as well.
The first volume, Great British Runners, is a thorough study of the great ones. Bannister, Coe, Wooderson, Ovett, Cram, Holmes, Moorcroft and Pririe are all covered thoroughly well. This volume is definitely influenced by the British feeling of ownership of the Mile, a view definitely substantiated by the exploits of Sir Roger. Also included are real great photos of the athletes along with quotes, which will inspire a new generation. There is a later chapter led by Farah, entitled, "The Next Generation". One of the final chapters "The Best of the Rest", also lists some great athletes in a soapbox-type layout, especially one of my favorites, the British runner, Peter Elliott.
The second volume, Great Marathon Runners, combines both the British and other international runners, but in different sections. The first section covers the Brits, led by Radcliffe, and also incorporates the lies of Jones, Thompson, Peters and the renowned Hill to name a few. Following in the second section are the internationals, led by the "Emperor", and with only 2 Americans listed (1 Male, the other female). Included in this resource are the big city marathons, along with historical perspectives on the "Duel in the Sun" and even the Pietrie episode from the 1908 London Games.
The third volume pretty much attempts to cover everything. Entitled, "The Greatest Olympic Athletes",it covers the Track & Field Olympians from 1948 to the present. Categorically set up in a loose listing of their events (there are sections for Middle Distance and Endurance for example), the book covers the exploits of Coe, Lewis, Johnson, Press, Zatopek, Moses, Oerter, Mota, Balas,and Thompson to name a few. Their picks for the top athletes in their respective categories, especially in the "Sprints" section are debatable. Yet, like any list, the fun with it is that it is open for debate, which makes this book all the more worthwhile!
Athletics Weekly is selling these books separately, yet it is my humble recommendation that the fan should purchase all three. My use of the last names of the great ones along with vague listings of cetain episodes in the sport in this review were for two purposes--to check on the ability of you veteran athletic fanatics to recognize, debate, and reminisce about these great athletes, and for the new fan to hoopefully be inspired to look into who these legends are and what certain events made them transcend to greatness (By the way, no mention of the Austrailian Herb Elliot??).
It is these reasons why the Athletics Weekly Series 3-volume reference books, like the monthly magazine (and Website -- www.Athletics-Weekly.com ) are awlways welcomed addition for all kinds of fans, both young and old, new and veteran, as the London 2012 Olympics approach!