Steve Cram

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Steve Cram
Steve Cram while carrying the Torch for the 2008 Summer Olympics as it passes through Whitehall in London.
Personal information
Full nameStephen Cram[1]
Nickname(s)The Jarrow Arrow[1]
Born (1960-10-14) 14 October 1960 (age 62)[1][2]
Gateshead, England[1][3][2]
Height6 ft 1 in (185 cm)
Weight10 st 12 lb (69 kg)
Event(s)1500 metres, Mile
ClubJarrow & Hebburn[3]
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)800 metres: 1:42.88[4]
1500 metres: 3:29.67[4]
Mile: 3:46.32[4]
3000 metres: 7:43.1[4]
2-mile: 8:14.93[4]
5000 metres: 13:28.58[4]

Stephen Cram, CBE (born 14 October 1960) is a British retired track and field athlete. Along with fellow Britons Sebastian Coe and Steve Ovett, he was one of the world's dominant middle distance runners during the 1980s. Nicknamed "The Jarrow Arrow", after his home town, Cram set world records in the 1,500 m, 2,000 m, and the mile during a 19-day period in the summer of 1985. He was the first man to run 1,500 m under 3 minutes and 30 seconds. He won the 1,500 m gold medal at the 1983 World Championships and the 1,500 m silver medal at the 1984 Olympic Games.

In 2000, Cram co-founded international children’s charity COCO (Comrades of Children Overseas) with British Army Major Jim Panton after running the Bosnia Comrades ultramarathon in 1998. Cram remains chairman of COCO, an organisation which currently provides education to children living in poor, remote parts of East Africa.[5]

In 2008, Cram was appointed Chancellor of the University of Sunderland, replacing Lord Puttnam,[6][7] and in 2009 was elected as President of Jarrow & Hebburn Athletics Club.[8]

Cram now works as a television presenter and athletics commentator, motivational speaker and athletics coach. In 2021, he was elected as the new president of the British Orienteering Federation.[9][10]

Athletics career[edit]

In 1980, Cram won his place in the British Olympic team after finishing in 2nd place to Steve Ovett in the mile at Crystal Palace. The race had been marked as a run-off between Cram and Scottish miler Graham Williamson for the final place (a selection decision which was severely criticised by Ovett in his 1984 autobiography). Cram, aged 19, reached the final of the 1,500 m at the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games, in which Ovett and Sebastian Coe famously vied for the gold medal. Cram finished in eighth place.[11]

Capitalising on his Olympic experience, Cram made his major breakthrough in 1982, a year in which Coe and Ovett were largely absent with injuries. Cram took 1,500 m gold at the Commonwealth Games and also the 1982 European Championships in Athens, where he raced to gold after breaking from the field with 600 metres to go following Williamson's fall.

Injury had disrupted Cram in the early part of the 1983 season, but he recovered in time for the 1983 World Championships in Helsinki and just prior to the games beat Coe (who was suffering from an undiagnosed virus at the time) in an 800 m at Gateshead. In a slow final, he strategically beat a large field following Saïd Aouita's break with 500 metres to go. Ovett became trapped in the pack, ultimately finishing fourth, while Cram outkicked Steve Scott and Aouita in the last 200 metres. In a remark made in Cram's presence shortly afterwards which spoke to the depth of British milers, Ovett noted that Britain was the home of the Olympic champion, World champion and World Record holder in the 1,500 m - titles held by Coe, Cram and Ovett respectively.

At Crystal Palace later that summer, Cram won an epic mile race, in which he led Ovett by little more than a metre with 300 metres to go and maintained that lead right to the finishing line. In a 2006 interview, Cram described the race: "It was a cat-and-mouse affair - we both started off running at the back of the field. I beat him by little more than the thickness of a vest."[12]

In 1984, Cram's season was severely hampered by injury, although he recovered sufficiently to win silver in the 1,500 m at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, behind defending champion Coe.

He came back stronger in 1985, a year in which he was only beaten three times; by Coe at 800 m, McKean at 800 m and Ovett in a road Mile. In the 800 m, not his best event, he beat the reigning 800 m Olympic Champion, Joaquim Cruz, in 1:42.88, the fastest time he was ever to run, off even splits of 51.2 & 51.7. He broke three world records (1,500 m, Mile, 2,000 m) within a 19-day span,[13] and recorded a British All Comers Record over the 1,000 m, running 2:12.88 in windy conditions at Gateshead (the second fastest 1,000 m in history at the time behind Coe's 2:12.18). He was the first man to run under 3:30.00 for the 1,500 m, just beating Saïd Aouita in Nice (running 3:29.67 to Aouita's 3:29.71). His mile time of 3:46.32, recorded at the Bislett Stadium in Oslo, stood for eight years and, as of 2021, is still the European record. This run was notable for the fact that this was an actual competitive race against Sebastian Coe with the first three laps being below schedule, although pretty even in pace distribution (57.2, 57.3, 58.7), followed by an exceptional last lap (440yds) of 53.2.

While the likes of Coe and Ovett had a devastating sprint finish over the last 100 metres, Cram tended to wind up the speed gradually over the last 300 metres of races, making him very difficult to catch. However, during the 1985 season he said (and indeed demonstrated) that he could win from any position and happily ran near the back of world class fields before unleashing his kick, often with a lap or so to go. This tactic, his elegant, high stepping action and his effortless acceleration made him one of the most exciting middle distance runners to watch.

Cram's good form continued into the 1986 season. At the 1986 Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, he won the 800 m, finishing 15 metres clear of Tom McKean and Peter Elliott in 1:43:22 - still the Commonwealth Games record. He followed this up with gold in the 1,500 m and was persuaded to run both events at the 1986 European Championships in Stuttgart. He arrived at the European Championships "just over the edge" as he suggested in David Miller's biography of Coe, "Born to Run". Nevertheless, he won the bronze in the 800 m having been blocked down the back straight by Tom McKean who made his run at the same time as Cram and, though leading into the straight, lacked the zest he showed in the Commonwealth games and was unable to hold off the challenges of McKean and a superlative Coe. Although disappointed by his 800 m defeat Cram bounced back to beat Coe to the gold medal in the 1,500 m. It turned out to be not only Cram's last major medal, but the end of the golden era for British middle distance running.

In 1987, he was no longer the outstanding 1,500 m athlete that he had been in previous years. Having previously been able to win races from any position and at any pace, he was now lacking confidence in his finishing speed, an area in which he had fallen behind some of his main rivals. He was beaten by José Luis González in the European Cup, and although he followed that with an impressive win in the 1,000 m in Stockholm, and won the Dream Mile for the third year running, he finished eighth after leading into the final bend of the 1987 World Championships final in Rome. He had said before the race that his only hope of victory was a fast race, in which he could run the finish out of his opponents, in particular Abdi Bile, the eventual winner. Unhappily for Cram, the pace was slow, and he faded badly in the last 100 metres.

His 1988 season saw him return to better form and he beat Bile in the Oslo Dream Mile in 1988 - his fourth consecutive victory in that race. Having run impressively in the Olympic trials over 800 m and winning in 1:44.16, (opening up an eight-metre gap over Tom McKean in a sprint down the home straight) he was touted as one of the favourites to win the gold medal over 1,500 m at the Seoul Olympics in 1988 until a calf injury just before the games in a 1000 m race hampered his progress. The injury affected his performance at the games and he was eliminated in the heats of the 800 m. He recovered sufficiently to reach the final of the 1,500 m, but could finish only fourth in a close race surprisingly won by Peter Rono.

Injury dogged him throughout his remaining years and although he continued to compete for some time, he never again looked likely to win a major championship. In the 1990 European Athletics Championships, he still finished fifth in the 1,500 m, but in the 1991 World Athletics Championships, he was eliminated in the 1,500 m semi-finals.[14]

He retired from athletics in 1994 and remains the UK record holder over the mile and 2,000 m.

Cram is the coach of middle-distance runners Laura Weightman,[15] Thomas Lancashire and Ross Murray.[16] In April 2014 Cram joined British Athletics as an adviser and mentor in the run-up to the 2016 Summer Olympics.[17]

Cram carries the Olympic Torch for the 2008 Summer Olympics down Whitehall in London surrounded by Police and Olympic officials on 6 April 2008

Television career[edit]

Cram now works as a television presenter and athletics commentator predominantly for BBC Sport and as a motivational speaker. He participated in Prince Edward's 1987 charity television special The Grand Knockout Tournament. Cram starred alongside UK Olympic Gold medalists Sally Gunnell and Adam Eason in BBC's 2006 primetime TV series Run for Glory, helping the runners and participants overcome psychological barriers to running the London Marathon. He was the BBC's lead commentator for the Athletic events at the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Cram has also presented as part of four Winter Olympics - Vancouver 2010, Sochi 2014, Pyeongchang 2018 and Beijing 2022 - having replaced Dougie Donnelly as the main Curling commentator in 2010.

Personal life[edit]

Cram's mother Marie was born in Germany and he considered representing Germany because of the dominance of Coe and Ovett.[18] Cram was married to Karen for many years, but they divorced in 2006 and since then he has lived with former athlete Allison Curbishley in Northumberland. He has two children, Josie and Marcus, who have had some success in under-age races. Cram had one sibling, a younger brother Kevin, who died in a fall aged 39 while out for a run in Cardiff in 2001.

In August 2014, Cram was one of 200 public figures who were signatories to a letter to The Guardian opposing Scottish independence in the run-up to September's referendum on that issue.[19]

He is a supporter of Sunderland A.F.C.[20]


Cram was voted BBC Sports Personality of the Year in 1983. He was appointed Member of the Order of the British Empire (MBE) in 1986 and Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the 2015 New Year Honours for services to sport.[21][22]

Personal bests[edit]

Distance Mark Date
800 m 1:42.88 1985
1000 m 2:12.88 1985
1500 m 3:29.67 1985
Mile 3:46.32 1985
2000 m 4:51.39 1985
2 Miles 8:14.93 1983
5000 m 13:28.58 1989
Marathon 2:35:44 1999


  1. ^ a b c d "Steve Cram". Sports Reference LLC. Archived from the original on 17 April 2020. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  2. ^ a b Luhtala, Seppo (2002). Top Distance Runners of the Century. Meyer & Meyer Sport. p. 80. ISBN 9781841260693. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  3. ^ a b "Steve Cram". UK Athletics. Archived from the original on 9 January 2016. Retrieved 7 June 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e f All-Athletics. "Profile of Steve Cram".
  5. ^ COCO (Comrades of Children Overseas)
  6. ^ Going the extra mile for Sunderland The Guardian (London), 6 November 2008
  7. ^ Steve Cram named new Chancellor Archived 21 March 2012 at the Wayback Machine University of Sunderland, 23 May 2008
  8. ^ Jarrow Arrow will inspire new generation of athletes Shields Gazette, 28 August 2009
  9. ^ "Steve Cram CBE Elected as British Orienteering's Fifth President".
  10. ^ "Steve Cram CBE Elected as British Orienteering's Fifth President". 30 April 2021.
  11. ^ Butcher, Pat (2005) Ovett and Coe The Record Breaking Rivalry. Phoenix ISBN 0-7538-1900-7
  12. ^ John Gibson "Face to face: Steve Cram" The Sunday Sun, 2 May 2006
  13. ^ Celebrate 19 days of middle distance glory IAAF, 5 June 2010; Retrieved 8 June 2010
  14. ^ Various countries' sports books about those championships; there is a book in Finnish about the European Athletics Championships from 1934 to 1990, and about the 1991 World Athletics Championships
  15. ^ "Laura Weightman - 1500m - Team GB Athlete Profile". Team GB. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
  16. ^ Bonnar, Neil (13 January 2017). "Tom Lancashire targets European Indoor Championship 1500m medal with Steve Cram as new coach". The Bolton News. Retrieved 3 March 2017.
  17. ^ "Steve Cram joins British Athletics' Endurance Programme". 16 April 2014. Retrieved 16 April 2014.
  18. ^ Philip, Robert (21 August 2007). "Oh for the days when Cram and co ruled" – via
  19. ^ "Celebrities' open letter to Scotland – full text and list of signatories". The Guardian. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 26 August 2014.
  20. ^ "Premier League predictions: Lawro v Sunderland fan Steve Cram". BBC Sport. 19 March 2016. Retrieved 31 January 2021.
  21. ^ "No. 61092". The London Gazette (Supplement). 31 December 2014. p. N9.
  22. ^ "2015 New Year Honours List" (PDF).

External links[edit]

Preceded by Men's 1,500 m World Record Holder
16 July 1985 – 23 August 1985
Succeeded by
Preceded by Men's Mile World Record Holder
27 July 1985 – 5 September 1993
Succeeded by
Preceded by European Record Holder Men's 1500m
16 July 1985 – 12 August 1997
Succeeded by
Awards and achievements
Preceded by United Press International
Athlete of the Year

Succeeded by
Academic offices
Preceded by Chancellor of the University of Sunderland