Sunday, 12 August 2012

A True Golden Girl

While newspaper headlines are still shouting Gold Rush! and the BBC continues to play Spandau Ballet's Gold I thought I would mention one of my sporting heroes.

Lillian Board (1948 – 1970) was a British middle-distance runner and a sporting icon when I was a young man. She won an Olympic silver medal and held several track world records. She was also one of my early inspirational role models.

In the 1968 Mexico Olympics she was narrowly beaten into second place in the final of the 400m by Colette Besson of France.

At the 1969 European Championships, having won gold in the 800m, Lillian ran the anchor leg for the British 400m relay team. Once more she was pitted against Besson and found herself well behind the French girl coming out of the final bend. Nevertheless she didn't give up and crossed the line a whisker ahead of her rival. I have watched the closing stages of that race over and over again on YouTube  and every time I see the two girls coming into the final straight I still think there's no way that Lillian can win. If you have time take a look for yourself.

Sadly, just over a year later, Lillian succumbed to a virulent form of cancer and died on Boxing Day 1970, just two weeks after her twenty second birthday.

Every time my goals seem unreachable and I need motivating I think of that black and white footage. I remember watching it over forty years ago and can recall the feeling of amazement as the gap between the two runners closed in dramatic fashion.

Thank you, Lillian.


  1. What an amazing talent, but how awful that her life was cut so tragically short. I'm ashamed to say I knew none of this - thank you for posting it x

  2. Interesting post Dream it, thank you. If I had a magic wand the first thing I would do is eliminate cancer...

  3. Sometimes I think I put a bit of effort into getting my stories right, but it's nothing compared to the training all these atheletes put themselves through.

  4. Thanks for the comments, Teresa, Diane and Patsy. I hope you had time to click on the YouTube link above and watch the amazing last 100m of that race.

  5. Her life teaches us to make the most of every minute.

  6. A wonderful role model to have Keith. I watched the clip and can't believe where her burst of energy came from! So tragic that Lillian died so young. I'm sure there would have been many more medals for her. Thanks for the interesting post. Ange :)