Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

If We Were Running Today We Would Be Millionaires ( There Is No Doubt about It

Newspaper article Evening Chronicle (Newcastle, England)

If We Were Running Today We Would Be Millionaires ( There Is No Doubt about It

Article excerpt

Byline: By John Gibson

Ian Stewart and Brendan Foster produced some epic battles to the death back in the seventies. Toughs of the track, both of them.

However, their biggest confrontation was over expenses as they filled stadia across the globe for little recompense.

Now Stewart, as Fast Track's meetings director in charge of assembling Gateshead's galaxy of stars on Sunday, makes a fortune for athletes no greater than himself.

From a one-time star runner labelled the Sandpaper Kid because of his abrasive manner, you may expect a vitriolic blast of both barrels when the subject of cash is approached. But no, even if the picture he paints is of stark contrast.

"There's no question that if Bren and I were running today we would very quickly have become millionaires," Stewart told me. "We got expenses whereas now the top men and women demand figures in noughts.

"I remember Bren and I clashing at Crystal Palace. Our photos were splashed all over the cover of the Radio Times because the meet was live on telly ( but Bren ran for the price of a rail ticket from Newcastle and me for a ticket from Birmingham.

"When I was only 20 back in 1969 I was in the GB squad against the USA at the White City. All the great Americans were on display and 50,000 squeezed into the stadium to watch us ( me and Dick Taylor were the only GB one-two all night. I appeared for my pounds 3 10s rail fare and then haggled over the cost of my breakfast!"

Surely that must gnaw at a man renowned in his pomp for being brash, controversial and at times just plain bloody-minded.

"Athletics has moved on greatly and in the main it has all been for the good," insisted Stewart, perhaps surprisingly. "I would like to think that Bren and I played a major part in its development. As did David Bedford.

"We've all stayed in the sport ( Foster with the Great North Run, Bedford with the London Marathon and me with Fast Track. We're all happy with our lot.

"There were no sour grapes in our days because we were all in the same boat. It wasn't as though some guys were raking it in and others running for fresh air. We had jobs ( I was a gunsmith, Bren a schoolteacher."

And what of his reputation as a loner who spoke with a snap? "Perhaps because I had a strong Brummie accent, came from a council estate, and would tell it how it was I got labelled," he shrugged.

"I liked to run hard and play hard. I would skirt round the niceties and cut to the truth as I saw it."

Stewart, who specialised over 5,000 and 10,000m, was a European and Commonwealth champion, an Olympic bronze medallist, and world cross country champion. Honours, not cash, filled his life to overflowing.

"I wasn't a good runner, I was a good racer," maintained Ian. "Brendan had a combination of both. …

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