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.

When this column drew the curtain on 2021 with a look at the annual Track & Field News rankings, I commented it had been a notably strong year for Australian athletes. I hadn’t realised how strong until former Athletics Australia president Terry Dwyer drew my attention to the magazine’s analysis of the rankings.
Not much interrupts the runner’s lifestyle at Falls Creek. It is pretty much run, rest, eat, repeat from day one of stay to departure. Nirvana for aspiring distance champions – and aren’t or weren’t we all, aspiring that is – boring as bat s**t for anyone else. New Year’s Eve...
By Len Johnson The years 2020 and 2021 have successively been “a year like no other” (even if 2021 seemed depressingly like 2020). I don’t know about a year like no other, but when it comes to Australia and the Track & Field News annual rankings, 2021 was certainly a year...
how then to assess athletics in 2021. There were good things and bad things to be sure and good and bad monarchs still run the sport. But was 2021 a good year, a bad year, or a first taste of some new normal.
Standing on the outside, looking in The ACT Cross-Country Club grew organically from a handful of runners gathering for cross-country races in 1957 to an entity which nurtured and managed distance running in Australia’s capital city. Nurtured because club members planted the seeds, managed because, in an early example of...
The first time I went to Japan to run the Fukuoka marathon my feet didn’t touch the ground until the five-kilometer point of the race.
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.