UCFB Guest Lecturer Profile: Brendan Foster, Olympian & founder of the Great North Run
It’s hard to find a British athlete with more strings to their bow than Brendan Foster. A chemistry graduate, Olympic medallist, entrepreneur and MBE, Brendan is known as much for his soothing voice as he is for his sporting prowess.
Runaway success with driving ambition
From the poorly maintained track in Gateshead to the world stage at the Olympic Games, Brendan’s achievements are legendary. A record-breaking performance at the 1974 European Championships in Rome resulted in gold for the 5,000m. Back home and while training for more competitions, Brendan assumed a management position at Gateshead Council to oversee the opening of a new track. For the launch, Brendan organised the Gateshead Games and promised to run a new record – which he did. This not only cemented his status as a local hero, but also helped him secure the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year award.
It was at the 1976 Olympic Games in Montreal that Brendan won bronze for the 10,000m; notable as it was the only British track and field medal to be issued that year – and the first since 1904. Two years later, Brendan won gold at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton. He was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame in 2010, in recognition of his many accolades.
Not shy and retiring, but Great
Following his retirement from the sport in 1980, Brendan has worked for Nike, set up his own sports event management company, Nova, and even supplied sports kit to the British Athletics team via his View From brand. He has also commentated for the BBC on athletics events since 1983 to the present day; his lilting Geordie accent both reassuring and educating the viewers at home.
That’s not all, naturally. Back in 1981, Brendan and three colleagues organised a road race in Newcastle which was aimed at encouraging both elite and fun-runners to have a go. This was, of course, the Great North Run, which has become one of the world’s biggest half marathons. The first race attracted 12,000 runners; in 2014, there were 42,000. The success of the Great North Run spawned runs across the UK, with the Great South Run celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2014.
Brendan has been instrumental in nurturing athletic talent from overseas and was awarded an MBE in 1976, plus a CBE in 2008. He remains ever passionate about running and is proud that the Great Runs continue to inspire generations to take up the sport, no matter their ability. He recently shared his enthusiasm with students at UCFB Burnley, talking about his career plus his business endeavours. If ever there was a national treasure, it’s Brendan Foster.