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Runner sues over 118 118 lookalikes

With their Zapata moustaches, flapping singlets and skimpy running shorts, they are the unlikely advertising pin-ups whose antics have earned their creators millions of pounds.

But it seems that the two 1970s-style joggers used to promote the 118 118 directory inquiries service, now Britain's biggest with a 50 per cent market share, may be hot property in more senses than one. A hero of British athletics from the era, the former world record-holder David Bedford, has launched a legal action against the Number, the company behind the service, claiming that it has stolen his trademark image.

Mr Bedford, 53, who is now race director of the London Marathon, is claiming damages of up to £200,000 for allegedly trading on his persona without his permission.

The one-time 10,000 metres record-holder claims that the two long-haired athletes used in the Number's £16m advertising and marketing campaign are a copy of his appearance and clothing some three decades ago.

The Number, a subsidiary of the American directory inquiries company InfoNXX, set up eight years ago in a Pennsylvania garage, denied that it had "body-snatched" Mr Bedford, who set his record in 1973.