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The Perfect Distance - Ovett and Coe: The Record-Breaking Rivalry Paperback


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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: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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Customer Reviews

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Mr. Butcher has produced an outstanding book.
Michael DENNISUK
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.
Bookworm
The book also contains some interesting British humor and phrases.
Daniel Hurley

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Eric J. Lyman on August 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
The Perfect Distance is an extremely fascinating look at one of the most intriguing athletic rivalries of the last generation. In the early 1980s, the drama represented by the races -- both real and virtual -- between Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett were on par with the more or less contemporary rivalries between Magic Johnson and Larry Bird, between Mohammed Ali and Joe Frazier, between Bjorn Borg and John McEnroe.

As author Pat Butcher -- a fair middle distance runner in his own right -- points out, as with all great rivalries, the battles between Mr. Coe and Mr. Ovett attracted attention as much because of the athletes' personalities as because of their prodigious talents. Mr. Coe -- now Lord Coe -- was the refined and cultured middle class boy, compared to Mr. Ovett, the muscular and brash son of market trader.

Based on his world record for 800 meters that lasted for an amazing 16 years and his successful defense of his 1500-meter title at the Los Angeles Olympics, Mr. Coe was probably the most successful of the two. But such comparisons are really not relevant with a rivalry like this one. These two men traded world records -- some of which stood for mere hours before the other crushed them half a continent away -- in a way that entranced any sports fan in the early 1980s. Each won the other's specialty at the Moscow Olympics in 1980, and Mr. Ovett once won 45 races in a row over nearly three years, a record unlikely to ever be duplicated at the highest level.

As a high school and university-level middle distance runner at that time, the battles between these two great athletes had no small influence on me, which is why I decided to buy this book the moment I saw it. But the thing that pushes this volume over the top is the way Mr.
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6 of 6 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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Michael DENNISUK VINE VOICE on June 4, 2006
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Mr. Butcher has produced an outstanding book. All great books start with a great story and this a great story. This rivalry began in the mid '70's and carried through to the '84 LA Olympics. Mr. Butcher has a runner's knowledge of the sport and a writer's command of the language. This book was meticulously researched , many of the principles have participated in the telling of this tale. The "British" slang is sometimes is difficult to follow but does not detract from the telling of the story. I like the fact that Mr. Butcher does not hesitate to share his opinions. This is a GREAT READ for any track fan.
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1 of 1 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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