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The Perfect Distance - Ovett and Coe: The Record-Breaking Rivalry Paperback – July 1, 2005

11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Butcher weaves interviews with nostalgia, capturing the mood of those heady days for British middle-distance running. THE HERALD a magnificent book EL PAIS

About the Author

Pat Butcher, a middle-distance runner himself, was athletics correspondent of The Times for most of the 1980s. He has subsequently worked for BBC radio and television, the Financial Times and L'Equipe.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Phoenix (July 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0753819007
  • ISBN-13: 978-0753819005
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.9 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,196,393 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Daniel Hurley VINE VOICE on September 16, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a very detailed and rich biography not only of Ovett and Coe but of history of the mile particularly from the British view point. As the author notes, the emergency of Ovett and Coe strides right into British middle distance runners dominating the world scene in the late 70s and early 80s with Cram, Elliott and Moorcroft. The Ovett and Coe duo are so different in racing styles, personalities and family life as Ovett emerges from blue collar roots with a very strong guarded mother and wonderful grand parents while Coe comes from a more upper class conservative family coached by an efficient and strong willed father. Butcher captures both athlete's abilities in detail with Ovett's amazing ability to run the sprints and high jump at early age to running events aside from 800 and 1500 to the 5K ,cross country and even jumping into a half marathon. Coe develops slightly slower but run as if a greyhound taking the pace to avoid contact with his 119 pounds particularly dominating the 800 while he and Ovett trade the 1500 and mile back and forth. The differences in mental and emotional make up between the two men is captured well in an excellent photograph of the two after a surprise loss to a relative unknown in a championship 800 where Coe literally looks crushed while Ovett has dangled his arm around Coe while looking off with chin up as in "well another day". The comparison between the Hagg and Anderson (includes interviews) and Ovett and Coe are well done as Ovett and Coe dominates the English sports news. Americans may require a little more patience as the author does discuss the world's best milers that include Walker, Bayi, Wessingham along with the US's Scott and Maree but the focus is on the English with running clubs and their depth of great runners at that time.Read more ›
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Bernardo A. Frau on July 13, 2006
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Very good book, well written, not boring at all, interesting information not only about the lifes of the two runners subject of the book but also of the sport of running in general those days in Europe. I am a "serious" runner a serious reader and also a writer myself. As such, I collect all sorts of books about running. Many are forgetable, this is not the top of the line but very good and worth reading
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful By John Karon on February 11, 2013
Format: Paperback
I have to disagree with the glowing reviews of most other reviewers. As a former competitive runner (quite modestly successful over 40+ years), I was disappointed by the lack of details about race results, the emphasis on relationships rather than on training methods and race results, and the presence of extraneous material that has nothing to do with the subject at hand. Readers should also be warned that the author expects the reader to understand the English competition system.
Other reviewers describe the substantial emphasis on interpersonal relationships, especially Ovett's relationship with his father/coach and Coe's relationship with his coach. The author interviewed many people for this book; at times, it seemed he felt he had to include everything anyone had told him about a particular subject, resulting in what seemed a lot of repetition. This is especially true early in the book.
There is extraneous material. There is a chapter on Andy Norman, an important promoter, who made important contributions by organizing races in which Ovett and Coe showed what they could do. But the chapter includes discussions of Norman's ethics and his behavior that led to a writer's suicide. In describing the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics, the author devotes a page to Carl Lewis' behavior, resulting in a lack of endorsement offers. It is very hard to understand what this has to do with Ovett and Coe. There is chapter devoted to the author's screed about the evils of having pace setters in races to promote fast times; since Coe and Ovett rarely raced each other but were so far ahead of most of their competition, it is hard to understand how he expected them to reach their achievable times without pace setters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Nick Campbell on May 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
Excellent book for anyone who followed track in the 70s and 80s.

Lots of light shed on what may have been the most significant and consistent rivalry on the oval. The backgrounds of both runners are very revealing; Coe's training routines, while widely discussed, were revolutionary. Meanwhile, Ovett is shown as an agressive and confident runner, and nothing like the arrogant antagonist that the media portrayed. Additionally, he was immersed in the science of footwear and helping develop better products for runners. Why he never got the acclaim he deserved is a mystery.

A great read for those who have been there.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bookworm on November 28, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This was a very enjoyable book about the great Ovett/Coe rivalry. The book delves into the roots/family influences of the two very talented middle distance runners including Ovett's very influential mother and Coe's father and coach. The author captures the excitement of breaking world records, running in the Olympic games and the expectations associated with being athletes at thier prime. Two very different personalities are contrasted both in their private and public impressions. A fascinating read.
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