Chris Brasher: athlete, sports journalist and founder of the London Marathon

Christopher Brasher, Olympic gold medallist and sports journalist, has died aged 74.

Brasher, who was born in British Guyana, began his athletics career in earnest while studying at Cambridge. At 24, he was selected to run in the steeplechase at the 1952 Helsinki Olympics and, although he finished near the back of the field, the experience spurred him on.

Two years later he become one of two pacemakers who helped Roger Bannister run the first four-minute mile, an event that inspired him to begin training in earnest for the 1956 Olympics.

Despite being the British team’s third choice, Brasher led the field in the final straight and crossed the line in front of the gold medal favourite, Larsen of Norway.

The following year, Brasher became sports editor of The Observer and, although he stayed only four years, he remained the paper’s Olympic correspondent until 1991. He was named Sports Writer of the Year in 1968 and 1976 and covered his last Olympics, Barcelona in 1992, for The Sunday Times.

He also wrote a 45,000-word book on the 1968 Olympics in the space of six days, dictating his copy to a relay of secretaries.

Brasher worked as a television reporter and producer during the Sixties. He spent four years on the Tonight programme and, after leaving the BBC, worked as a freelance producer.

He had a number of successful business ventures, including the Brasher Boot Company and a chain of sports clothing outlets called The Sweatshop.

But his most famous venture was the establishment of the London Marathon in 1981. He had taken part in the New York Marathon two years before and decided London should host a similar event. He wanted it to attract top athletes from all over the world and inspire people who normally watched sport on the television to get themselves fit and take part. In 1958 Brasher married British tennis star Shirley Bloomer. He is survived by her and their three children, Kate, Hugh and Amanda.

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