Filbert Bayi’s front-running 1500m world record at the 1974 Commonwealth Games not only created history, it revolutionized middle-distance running — and the record still stands. Bayi may see it broken in the next 24 hours — and he’ll be handing out the medals.
Writing about that memorable race in his new memoir Catch Me If You Can, Filbert recalled, “Despite a fantastic 1973, I was still not the main guy on people’s radars. Earlier in these Games, I had placed fourth in the 800m, behind two others who were also in the 1500m field: Kenyan Mike Boit had taken silver and New Zealand’s own John Walker had earned bronze. … I felt like an underdog.”
But Bayi had confidence in the stragegy he’d employed in previous races — a bold attack to create a wire-to-wire lead. “I was ready for whatever my opponents had in store. My front-running was no gimmick; it was a calculated strategy I was more than prepared to execute. … I had no doubt about what I would do. When the gun sounded, I rushed to the front and forced them to chase me.”
Bayi went on to set the Commonwealth Games record for the 1500m that day. Remarkably, the record still stands, nearly 50 years later. But on Saturday in Birmingham, UK, some of the world’s best will attempt to break that record — and Filbert himself will be there to watch the race and hand out the medals. Will he be placing a ribbon around the neck of the next great 1500m runner?
Read more about Filbert’s 1974 race in Athletics Weekly’s excerpt from Catch Me If You Can.