Brendan Foster and Haile Gebrselassie cross the Great North Run finish line with the Olympic flame during the 2012 torch relay (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Olympic medallist and world record-breaker Foster knighted in Queen’s birthday honours

Brendan Foster, founder of the Great North Run and former world record-holder, has been awarded a knighthood in the Queen’s birthday honours list.

Foster, who earned Olympic bronze in 1976, was recognised for his services to international and national sport and culture in North East England.

The 72-year-old earned his first international honours in 1970 when taking Commonwealth bronze over 1500m. He picked up another bronze medal over the same distance at the 1971 European Championships, and then moved up in distance, earning Commonwealth silver over 5000m in 1974 and European gold later that year.

He set a world record over 3000m in 1974, clocking 7:35.2, and in 1976 he was Britain’s sole Olympic medallist in athletics, taking bronze over 10,000m. He went on to complete his set of Commonwealth medals in 1978 when winning the 10,000m, and in 1980 he competed at his third Olympic Games.

After retiring from competition, he became a frequent commentator for televised athletics competitions. His biggest legacy, however, is the Great North Run.

The first staging of the event took place in 1981 with 12,000 people completing the half marathon from Newcastle to South Shields. The 1992 Great North Run, meanwhile, incorporated the first ever World Half Marathon Championships. Thanks to the successful staging of the inaugural event, the championships became a regular fixture on the global athletics calendar and the 22nd edition of the World Half Marathon Championships will take place next weekend in Gdynia.

The Great Run Company now organises numerous mass-participation events across the UK. The Great North Run had been set to celebrate its 40th edition in 2020 with a record 60,000 participants expected to take part before coronavirus caused its cancellation.

“It is a real privilege to receive this honour,” said Foster. “Fifty years ago the Queen presented me with my first athletics medal at the Edinburgh Commonwealth Games.  Since then I’ve been lucky enough to spend my whole life doing something that I've loved from childhood: participating, sharing my enthusiasm through broadcasting and for the last 40 years encouraging thousands to run for pleasure. I have to recognise with thanks the significant contribution of lots of others in the awarding of this honour. It really has been my privilege to work with all those individuals and organisations who've shared the journey.”

Foster is one of several people within the sport to be recognised in the Queen’s birthday honours list.

Jackie Brock-Doyle, World Athletics’ Executive Director of Communications, has been honoured with a CBE for services to sport, and Scottish Athletics chair Ian Beattie has received an MBE for services to athletics.

Former international athlete and coach Mike Whittingham, now director of high performance at the Scottish Institute of Sport, receives an OBE for services to sport, while club coaches Gordon Main and Jill Slatter both gain BEMs.