The IAAF is deeply saddened to hear that former mile world record-holder Derek Ibbotson died on Thursday (23) at the age of 84.
Born in Huddersfield in June 1932, Ibbotson became part of the legendary generation of British middle-distance runners of the 1950s alongside the likes of Roger Bannister, Chris Brasher and Chris Chataway.
After a successful junior career, Ibbotson served in the Royal Air Force and then returned to athletics in the mid-1950s. He won the AAA title at three miles in the summer of 1956 and ended that year by taking the 5000m bronze medal at the Olympic Games in Melbourne.
But the following year, 1957, was to be his best season. On 15 June that year, he was set to compete in a mile race in Glasgow. His wife called him at 10am that morning to say that she had given birth to their first child, Christine. Ibbotson told her that he was going to break the world mile record to celebrate the occasion. In tough conditions, Ibbotson went on to win in a European record of 3:58.4, the second-fastest mile in history at the time.
He didn’t have to wait long to get the world record. Little more than a month later, in an invitational mile race in London that was dubbed ‘mile of the century’, Ibbotson clocked 3:57.2 to take 0.08 off John Landy’s world record set three years earlier.
Having contested 48 races that year – 37 of which he won – Ibbotson took a couple of months off training ahead of the 1958 season to recover from his hectic 1957 campaign and subsequently struggled to regain his best form. He continued racing competitively until the mid-1960s.
“I never cut my times by two or three seconds, as I should have done, and the parade had gone by,” Ibbotson told Track Stats in 2006. “Herb Elliott was on the scene by then running the times I should have been doing. I had missed a fantastic opportunity and it’s the only regret I have. I should have been better and up there. But hindsight makes everyone a genius. C’est la vie.”
He was appointed MBE in 2008 and was inducted into the England Athletics Hall of Fame in 2011. He leaves behind four daughters.