Athletics News

World record-breaking middle-distance runner Phyllis Perkins dies

World record-breaking middle-distance runner Phyllis Perkins dies

British athlete held world records at 1500m, 3000m and two miles and won national titles on the track and country in the 1950s

As one of the world’s top runners in the 1950s and 1960s, Phyllis Perkins set world records at 1500m, 3000m, two miles and 3×880 yards. She also won national titles at 880 yards, the mile and the women’s National cross-country title. At major championships she was fourth in the 1962 Commonwealth Games at 880 yards, ran in the 1962 European Championships and in 1960 became Ilford AC’s first Olympian.

She also made the cover of AW during her fine career but died on late last month aged 89.

Born in Bristol as Phyllis Green in 1934, she was originally a hurdler but went on to run PBs that included 200m 25.3, 400m 55.8, 800m 2:07.3, one mile 4:57.0 and two miles 11:27.2 while combining her athletics with work as a typist.

Her world records, meanwhile, were: 1500m 4:35.4 (1956), 3000m/two miles 10:56.0/11:28.0 (1954) and 10:55.2/11:27.2 (1955) plus 3x880y in 1952.

Phyllis Perkins leads at the White City in 1963 (Mark Shearman)

She won the Women’s AAA title at 880 yards in 1956 and 1963 and the English National title in 1951 aged just 17 and again in 1952. Such achievements took her to the International Cross Country event as well where she had three top 10 results with a best of fourth place in 1956.

At the 1962 Commonwealths she was fourth behind winner Dixie Willis of Australia, whereas in 1960 she competed in the Rome Olympics.

Phyllis Perkins (Mark Shearman)

In Rome she was disappointed to be knocked out in her 800m heat but it was a significant moment as the event had been restored to the Olympics for the first since it was controversially excluded following the 1928 Games in Amsterdam. Her competitive career lasted until 1963 when she hung up her spikes.

Her first husband was the international distance runner Alan Perkins and in later life she lived in Hornchurch and then Kent and became a prominent official and was president of the South of England AA from 2016-17.

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