Seb Coe is one of the most important 800m/1,500m athletes in British, European and Olympic history. In 1984, at my first Olympics, I witnessed Seb Coe take his second 800m silver (Moscow 1980 and LA 1984). He would also win the gold, a second time, at 1,500m in LA!
The big lesson from Seb Coe? Never give up.
This is the beginning of a series on Seb Coe by Jeff Benjamin, our East Coast senior Editor. Jeff Benjamin has written for all of my publications, from American Athletics (1990-1994), to American Track & Field (1994-2016), and now, RunBlogRun.com (2007-present).
Seb Coe: Younger years, found on You Tube, attributed to BBC
The 40th Anniversary Of Sebastian Coe’s Record Breaking 1981 Season!
First In A Series
Chapter 1 – “Running With Complete Freedom!”
By Jeff Benjamin
Without a doubt, 1980 was the year that Sebastian Coe experienced his “Baptism of Fire!”
“That year there were pressures beyond the field of play,” Coe said recently, as the World Athletics Leader and International Olympic Committee member recounted that monumental year.
“You must remember that it was all about winning a major title that year and I felt the 2 year intensive build up beginning in 1979 with political vagaries leading up to the Moscow Olympics.”
Even getting to Moscow had challenges, as the United States-Led boycott also put pressure on the British athletes to make a personal choice to go. Both Coe and his countryman/rival Steve Ovett opted to go and both had surprising results.
Seb Coe lifting, photo by RexMailPix (via Jeff Benjamin)
Coe’s Olympics were without a doubt a roller-coaster, as he ran the 800 final in what he’s called the worst race he ever ran, netting the Silver behind Ovett. Virtually written off by almost everyone, Coe then took the Gold in dramatic fashion over Ovett, establishing himself as a legend.
“Relief had come of age!”, said Coe recently. “I had my major title and I had a sense of great freedom after it.”
With this relief, Coe now felt totally in control of his training and racing goals, with no outside pressures going into 1981.
“If I had lost in 1980 it would have been different,” said Coe. “The weight of the Olympics was off of my shoulders and now I wanted a bit of fun!”
Coe’s 1981 Goals?
To rewrite the record books.
“I could chose my races but I also wanted to support and thank those meet directors, especially Andreas Brugger (Zurich) and Wilfred Meert (Brussels) who took a chance on me in the early years.”
“In 1981, I would be running with complete freedom.”
For Coe, with those goals came intense preparation, as he now balanced the in demand appearances post-Olympics with his bedrock training supervised for him by his Father/Coach Peter, a relationship which was going on past 10 years at the time.
One of Coe’s major “Bricks” in his foundation was Cross-Country.
“Cross-Country training is the bedrock of track endurance,” said Coe, who has also recently fought for its re-inclusion into the Olympic Games with strong hope for the 2028 Los Angeles Games.
“Nothing in training would ever feel worse than running Cross-Country training and races for a half-hour to 40 minutes,” said Coe, who also noted how the foot-plant on the uneven surfaces both uphill and downhill gives the runner strength they could not gain elsewhere.
“It’s sad that it isn’t properly used today by 800 and 1500 meter athletes..It is a large part of training both mentally and physically.”
Another “Brick” was weight-training, which was supervised by George Gandy.
With Coe there never was a “magic workout” which led to his success. As he once said, he was heavily engaged in the “Purgatory of Training” – consistent, day-in, day-out (twice a day as well!) training.
“There’s no secret,” Coe has said before. “Training must be progressive…if you are improving then your training is good.”
Another component was Seb’s development of his sprint speed, and once again, Coe and his Father engaged in that component very consistently.
“When I was a youth athlete, my Father would have me joint the sprinters with the emphasis on 400 meter training,” said Coe.
“In every phase of training, I was with the sprinters once a week and it became for me a rare mix of characteristics and physicality’s that kept my legs fast.”
“It was a great way of getting into the season.”
Indeed it was, as Coe’s first World Record in a season of many would be quite the surprise.
Coming Up -Seb Coe’s surprise start to his World-Record season!