Athletics News

David Sharpe pulls no punches in new book

Steve Cram looks back on 1983 world title triumph

Iconic 800m runner who ran 1:43.98 and won the 1992 World Cup reveals his ‘wild child’ past in an entertaining autobiography

David Sharpe is best known as being Steve Cram’s talented but underperforming training partner. When the Jarrow Arrow was smashing world records at 1500m and the mile in the 1980s, Sharpe was nicknamed the “Jarra Sparra” and often found making headlines for the wrong reasons after various incidents involving the police.

Now, in a hard-hitting autobiography out this month, Sharpe reveals all. Written with Brian Gardner and entitled Enigma on the Track: Wild Child to World Champion, the former 800m runner remembers the incidents that led to him becoming one of the sport’s most iconic characters during a golden age of British athletics.

In a brutally honest life story, there are tales of being arrested for “causing harassment, alarm and distress” at a nightclub, being found guilty of assault (charges that were later dropped) and getting into a white-collar boxing fight after his athletics career ended.

The 56-year-old also got into scrapes with the law while pursuing two of his other passions – motorbike riding and bird watching – in addition to a brush with cancer.

Cram says in the foreword to the book: “From the moment he turned up at our track in Jarrow with his shock of red hair and toothy grin he had everyone’s attention. Initially it was his raw running ability that raised eyebrows but increasingly we got to know the character that would set Sharpey apart from the rest.”

Steve Cram (Mark Shearman)

The book is dedicated to coach Jimmy Hedley, who died in 2004 aged 77. Some of the best anecdotes involve Hedley, too, such as Sharpe and his coach chasing feral cats around Athens before competing in the World Junior Championships.

For training enthusiasts, there are details of the work Sharpe and Cram used to do. However, Sharpe admits his body could not handle the same mileage Cram managed. Even on low mileage, Sharpe suffered plenty of injuries such as multiple stress fractures in his shins.

Sharpe and Cram clearly got on brilliantly, although they did fall out once when Sharpe sneakily borrowed Cram’s new car for a spin around the streets of North East England while the multiple world record-holder was doing a long warm-down run. Sharpe was caught in the act and Cram wasn’t happy, although they soon made up.

“Crammy was aware of what was going on,” Sharpe says, on his various adventures on and…

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