In 1956, aged 24, Derek Ibbotson won a bronze medal in the 5000m race at the Melbourne Olympics. The following year in London, he ran 1 mile in 3 minutes and 57.2 seconds, smashing the existing world record.
Derek's dad spotted his potential at a school football match: 'you have got a lot of energy but you're not going to be a footballer … you're going to be a runner'.
Training sessions at Leeds Road Playing Fields in Huddersfield were hard. He would get covered in dye from the nearby ICI Dyestuffs factory, and the cinder running track turned to a slushy mess in wet weather.
The turning point in Derek's life came when he was selected to represent England at an international competition in Wales. His manager at the Coal Board refused him time off to compete. After discussing it with his Dad, Derek made the brave decision to hand in his notice the next day and devote himself to becoming a world class athlete.
His courage paid off.
You can watch a video of Derek smashing the world record for the mile distance run in 1957, and hear him talk about the victory - just click the video link below.
Excerpt from the short film ‘Our Sporting Greats’ made for Kirklees Museums and Galleries by Chris Squire and Andy Wicks of Impossible Theatre (web link below).
Archive footage courtesy of the BBC.