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A Column By Len Johnson

Len Johnson wrote for The Melbourne Age as an athletics writer for over 20 years, covering five Olympics, 10 world championships and five Commonwealth Games.

He has been the long-time lead columnist on RT and is one of the world’s most respected athletic writers.

He is also a former national class distance runner (2.19.32 marathon) and trained with Chris Wardlaw and Robert de Castella among other running legends. He is the author of The Landy Era.

Every person who has ever climbed a ladder has experienced the feeling. Once you start to come down, your first step is blind, your foot searching for something solid. You’ve taken every precaution; you know you will find a sound footing, but it’s still a relief when you do.
If, like me, you take a passing interest in the NCAA cross-country championships, it may start and finish with Morgan McDonald’s victory in November 2018. Or maybe you have firm memories of Pat Tiernan’s win in 2016.
Women didn’t get to make distance running history. Paternalistic notions about the impact of physical stress on women which, in truth, were too often misogyny disguised as medical science, saw to that. Pheidippedes hijacked the whole marathon myth thing with his “rejoice, we have won,” message to Athens, collapse and...
Who do you reckon would be Australia’s best athlete? The answer, I suspect, would depend on how you look at it. Some would say it has to be an Olympic or world champion, a world record breaker, or perhaps both. Others might look at longevity, consistent excellence over a period of years. Then there’s the impact of a single performance: Ralph Doubell’s world record-equalling win in the 800 metres in Mexico City, Herb Elliott’s smashing world record victory in the 1500 in Rome, Cathy Freeman withstanding the crushing build-up of pressure to win the 400 in Sydney.
There I was, standing in the bowels of Hampden Park in my stockinged feet, my shoes with one of the athletes in what could charitably be called ‘my charge’, the other whisked away to heaven knows where by a Glasgow 2014 official and coming back heaven knows when.
Angela Tanui and I share one thing in common: we both set out to run the Boston Marathon but neither of us got there. On the whole, though, I’d rather share her 2:17:57 marathon personal best. Seeing Angela’s got the better PB, let’s begin with her story. A couple of...
A column by Len Johnson No doubt about it: ask any athlete what is the biggest thing in an Olympic year – even an Olympic year which wasn’t going to be an Olympic year until the Covid-postponement made it one, and they will almost certainly reply: “the Olympic Games”. Every athlete...
A column by Len Johnson This columnist has always been a big fan of the Rampaging Roy Slaven and H.G. Nelson observation that “too much sport is barely enough”. But, I wonder, what about when five of the world’s biggest marathons – Berlin, London, Chicago, Boston and New York – are...
I checked the impression that 2021 has been a good year for Australian records by reviewing the pace of national record-breaking in recent years. The figures seem to confirm the impression: Eight athletes set a total of 14 Australian records in 2021, a higher figure for both number of record-breakers and number of records than for any of the previous three years.
Written by Len Johnson Not many people could entitle an autobiography My Life in Athletics as appropriately as did Mel Watman in 2018. Even fewer could do so without the slightest hint of pretentiousness and in the complete absence of outstanding athletic achievement. Yet Mel Watman, sometime club steeplechaser and mid-pack...