Tom Byers (athlete)

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Thomas Joseph Byers, Jr. (born 1956) is a former professional distance runner and current businessman. He gained fame in 1981 when, running as a designated pacemaker or 'rabbit' in the high-profile 1500 meters race at the Bislett Games in Oslo, he won a race including world class 1500m runners such as Steve Ovett after the rest of the field refused to follow his early pacesetting.


He was a runner at The Ohio State University in the 1970s and still holds the outdoor OSU distance record in the 1500m (3.37.5). He held the mile record (4:00.10.) until Jeff See broke it on June 2, 2007.[1] During his time at OSU, he also won the U.S. Junior 1500m title, finished second at the AAU outdoor championships, and participated in the '76 Olympic Trials.[2] Byers temporarily retired from competitive running for several years to join the corporate world, but returned to professional running in the 1980s. One thing for which Byers was noteworthy was his hair. Unlike most middle and long distance runners, who wore their hair short, Byers chose to wear his long.[3]

His 3:50.84 mile ranks 7th fastest by a United States runner, while his 2:16.1 in the 1000 meters is the second fastest by a US runner.[4]

Oslo, 1981[edit]

Byers took a dramatic victory in a 1500m race in Oslo in 1981. The world record holder Steve Ovett was a strong favourite to win the race, and Byers was expected to act only as a pacemaker. But Ovett and the pack did not follow his pace, and Byers did not step off the track. He was leading by almost ten seconds going into the final lap. Ovett ran the last lap almost nine seconds quicker than Byers but finished second by 0.53s.[5] Video on YouTube

Personal life[edit]

He had two sons, one of whom is deceased. Thomas Joseph Byers III (1985–2005) was a distance runner for Coffman High School in Dublin, Ohio (where he graduated in the same class as fellow student-athlete Brady Quinn), and went on to run at the University of Kentucky and the University of Mississippi. He died when he was struck by a train before his junior year at Kentucky.[6]


  1. ^ "OSU Outdoor Records" (PDF). The Ohio State University. Retrieved 2008-02-17. 
  2. ^ "Tom Byers Makes Mile Comeback". Masters Track & Field. Retrieved 2007-04-23. 
  3. ^ "T&FN: 2014 Women's U.S. Junior Absolute Leaders". 
  4. ^ "All Time Track Best Marks". Faster Running. Retrieved 2007-04-23. 
  5. ^ " - MORESPORTS - How low can Loroupe go?". 
  6. ^ "Student killed on tracks". Kentucky Kernel. Retrieved 2007-04-23.