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Marathon runner Jim Peters has died aged 80

Former marathoner Jim Peters dies

LONDON (AP) _ British runner Jim Peters, who broke the world marathon record four times in the 1950s but is best remembered for a poignant failure in the 1954 Commonwealth Games, died Jan. 9, according to news reports. He was 80.An amateur from Becontree in northeast London who balanced his career as an optician with a exhausting training schedule, Peters first broke the 26-mile marathon record in 1952 with a time of 2:20:42.2, and remained the world's best for that distance until 1958.

But it was his collapse in the 1954 Commonwealth Games in Vancouver that evokes the most dramatic images, coming after he entered the stadium at the end of the marathon with an astonishing lead of some 3 miles (4.8 km) over the rest of the field.

After setting his usual fast pace, despite the humidity and warm temperatures, the 35-year-old was suffering from severe dehydration and began to stagger. He then fell more than half a dozen times, even crawling on all fours as he tried but failed to complete the last lap of the track to the finish.

Retiring from athletics after Vancouver, Peters unexpectedly received a Commonwealth Games gold medal on Christmas Eve 1954, inscribed from Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth II: ``As a token of admiration to a most gallant marathon runner.'' Just before his 80th birthday, Peters, who had battled cancer for several years, was touched to receive a letter of best wishes from Prince Philip, The Times said.Peters ran in the 10,000-meter race in the 1948 Olympic Games at Wembley Stadium and finished a disappointing ninth. Afterward, he was convinced by his new coach, ``Johnny'' Johnston, to become a marathoner. He broke the world record in 1952 but dropped out of the 1952 Helsinki Olympic Games marathon with severe cramps. He had his finest year in 1953, winning four top-class marathons and reducing the world record twice more.Peters is survived by his wife Frieda, a daughter and a son.