Sebastian (Seb) Coe, UK record 800m 1978





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Published on Oct 2, 2011

After a pretty disruptive season, with injuries keeping him out of racing for 6 weeks, 1978 ended with Coe hitting some good form, hinting at what might (and did!) come the following season. After breaking his own UK 800m record in Brussels on August 18th with 1:44.25, Coe went on to run in his first senior outdoor international Championships, the European in Prague. Knowing he wasn't in top form he used the final to "see what the bastards were made of" , running the then fastest ever opening 400m of 49.32. Ovett was more sensible running c. 50.0 flat in third place, snuck in behind Olaf Beyer in 2nd. The "wheels came off" for Coe in the home straight as both Ovett and then Beyer (later listed on official documents as a recipient of state endorsed steroids) went past. Ovett was still too strong for Coe in 78, although with a slightly slower opening lap the result may have been different. One thing was certain however, the gap between them was closing rapidly.
Two weeks after the Europeans Coe ran the 800m at Crystal Palace, after being refused entry to run in the 2 Miles event between Ovett & Rono! He was eager to get back his UK record, which Ovett had taken from him in Prague with 1:44.09. Crystal Palace is not known as a fast track, but Coe ran an impressive 1:43.97 that night, which would remain as a UK All comers record until Cram's 1:43.22 in Edinburgh in 1986.
1:43.97 was only half a second outside Juantorena's world record, suggesting that on a faster track without the injury in early summer, Coe may well have beaten Juantorena's figures in 1978. That was not to be, however, until the following year. Apologies that this is not a good quality copy of the race. I hope it is at least of some interest to some.

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