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British Centurions

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British Centurions
Founded in 1911 - the original Centurions

Between 1902 and the actual foundation of the Centurions in 1911, walking as an (amateur) athletic sport had become established and some 50 people had qualified in six events by the definition of race walking in operation at the time.

Although "professional" athletes did still exist during this period, no doubt that a fascination with long-distance walking in the 19th century and the early years of the 20th century contributed directly to the formation of the Brotherhood of Centurions in 1911.  

The idea of forming the "Brotherhood " was conceived by E.R. Bob Gillespie, who had walked 106 miles non-stop in a 24 hour race in 1908.
The actual foundation meeting was held at the Ship and Turtle public house, situated at 131, Leadenhall Street, London on 11 May 1911 and at this meeting, James Edward Fowler-Dixon, was elected President.
Fowler-Dixon had walked 100 miles in 20 hours 36 minutes 8 seconds in a race at Lillie Bridge, Fulham, London in 1877, and so he was designated as the senior and longest qualified person present and therefore given the memorable membership number “C.1”.  

The Centurions 1911 is not a club and the rules to qualify as a Centurion are quite simple:
  • a race walker must have fulfilled the performance criteria set both by the Centurions and the English Race walking Association (RWA) which is to walk 100 miles within a 24 hour time limit in accordance with the current RWA racewalking rules.
  • the application must be unanimously accepted by members at a general meeting where the athlete would then be "invited" to become a Centurion. This "process" has not changed much over the years, except that these days, walkers who have finished the race in the qualifying time are normally awarded their Centurion number on race day at the awards presentation.
  • Centurion numbers are awarded in strict sequential order of qualification ie finishing time within the 100 mile race.

read more on the history of the Centurions page

British Centurions
the Brotherhood of Centurions

From the earliest events, 24 hour track races took their place alongside the epic road journeys which survived until road traffic pressures in the 1970s and 80s caused organisers to seek alternative courses. The later race venues were first around quiet rural lanes and then around parks and other “closed” spaces as traffic increased and it became impossible to continue on the traditional courses.

fact sheet...
  • Tommy Hammond’s 1907 time of 18.13.37 was for the full 104 miles Brighton double journey. However, for some years, the 100 miles times on the Brighton road were not always recorded.
  • Tommy Richardson (holder of the world 50 mile track record) was awarded Centurion number 100, in a time of 17.35.04 achieved in the 1936 Brighton event.
  • The Brighton double journey (London to Brighton and back) was organised by Surrey Walking Club 17 times between 1902 and 1967.

Other point-to point events took place in the 1950s:
  • Bath to London Road (1952)
  • Birmingham to London (1953)
  • Blackpool to Manchester and back (1954)
  • Sheffield to Harrogate and back (1956)  
  • Between 1958 and 1978, Leicester WC organised the Leicester to Skegness race 11 times.
  • In 1998, the chance to complete a scenic journey was presented by the Isle of Man 85 miles Parishes walk to which was added 15 miles along Douglas promenade.
  • Events on shorter road courses, during the 1960s, 70s and 80s, included the Chigwell, Bristol, Ewhurst (six times,) and Leicester Congerstone and Hungarton courses (eight events.)
  • More recent events in public parks, sports grounds, and private spaces have included the Hendon (Police College), Battersea Park, Colchester, Newmarket, King’s Lynn and Douglas (Isle of Man) events.
  • The 1993 Battersea Park event, organised by Surrey Walking Club and the Metropolitan Police WC, was the only British event to host a 200 kms qualifying race for the famous Paris-Colmar classic.
  • Various tracks have provided venues for the 100 miles race, from Lillie Bridge in 1877 onwards. They include the tracks at White City and Woodford Green, London, Walton and Motspur Park, Surrey, and tracks in Bradford, Brighton, Leicester, Colchester, Ware, Blackpool, Southend and Milton Keynes.
  • The Centenary of Centurions1911 was celebrated at a special dinner held at the Houses of Parliament in London in 2011.

Over the  years, many overseas race walkers travelled to the UK to compete in the British Centurion races and such was the appeal of walking 100 miles (160.9 kilometres) within a 24 hour time limit in a judged race that the concept was copied in Australia, the Netherlands, USA, Africa, Malaysia and New Zealand.
read more on the Centurions Worldwide home page
100 hundred years of  British Centurions

Quite a momentous event in the recent history of the British Centurions - a celebratory dinner held in the House of Commons dining room.

Previous anniversaries have been celebrated - but the 100th was the one!

A total of 164 Centurions and guests enjoyed the evening -  full of toasts and speeches but most of all catching up with old friends. Priceless.

Pictured - the CVN President Piet Janssens presenting Centurions President, Carl Lawton with an Anniversaray Plate.

Since 1911 there have been many Centurion Achievements.
current list of British Centurions @ 2022 (no races 2020 and 2021)

Olympians - over the years  there have been Centurions who walked in the Olympics
  • C12 Bill Brown -1908 London Olympics 3,500 metre Walk (disqualified). More on Bill Brown
  • C175 Rex Whitlock  1936 Olympic 50K gold medalist; 1952 Helsinki Olympic 50K - Rex Whitlock 4th.
  • C276 Frank O'Reilly-Competed in the 1960 Rome Olympic 50K for Eire.
  • C376 John Kelly -1968 Mexico Olympic 50K Competed for Eire (did not finish).
  • C631 Don Thompson MBE - Gold medalist in the Rome Olympic 1960 50K.
  • C778 Brian Adams - 1976 Montreal Olympic 20K.
  • C1064 Ian Richards - 1980 Moscow Olympic 50K.
  • C1098 Dominic King - 2012 London Olympic 50K; 2016 Rio Olympic 50K (DQ'd)

and in the Commonwealth Games - Centurions include UK's Ron Wallwork and Bill Sutherland along with Tim Erickson (Australia) and John Cannell Isle of Man

... and a few more Centurions stats....
  • In 1977, for the first time in British 100 miles history, women were allowed to compete on equal terms with the men and the first Centurion qualification by a woman was achieved by Ann Sayer (C599) at the Bristol 100. In fact, Ann had become a Continental Centurion earlier that year in St. Odenrode finishing in a time of 21 hours and 46 minutes;
  • Eddie McNeir (C375) completed 10 Centurion events between the ages of 65 and 75 after whom a trophy is named for the first man over 65 to complete 100 miles;
  • John Moulin set the fastest Centurion qualifying time of 16.55.44 in 1971.
  • Sandra Brown has completed over 26 UK 100 miles, and over 41 Centurion races around the world, and has won the UK ladies 100 miles event 25 times. Sandra became the first person to achieve all seven worldwide Centurion awards.
  • 1877 to 2019, 96 Centurion qualifying events have been held in the UK.
  • In 2019 last number awarded  was C1211
  • 17 of the 96 events held to 2019 have been track races.
  • Dominic King (C1098) who qualified at Colchester in 2012 alongside his twin brother Dan (C1100) are the first twins to become Centurions
  • the over 70s Amazingly there are a number of race walkers who achieve their Centurion status when they have reached the magical age of 70 or over. View the List of the over 70s

more info courtesy of Steve Taylor from the Isle of Man who has compiled the following stats:
  • There have been six 100 mile races held on the Isle of Man resulting 176 performances by in 140 different people.
  • Each event was on a different course with 109 walkers attaining Centurion status.
  • 1998 - Parish Walk plus 15 miles on Douglas promenade - 4 new Centurions
  • 2006 - NSC track and roadway - 25 new Centurions
  • 2013 - NSC roadway - 24 new Centurions
  • 2015 - Castletown (2 mile lap) - 32 new Centurions
  • 2018 - NSC track - 8 new Centurions
  • 2019 - Castletown (1mile loop) - 16 new Centurions
  • Female finishers - 31
  • Male finishers - 109
  • Sandra Brown is the fastest woman at 19:28:47 and the only woman to break 20 hours.
  • Richard Gerrard is the fastest man at 18:29:39. Only he and Dave Talcott have broken 19 hours.
  • Finishers by nationality, the Isle of Man is counted within GBR
  • AUS - 2, BEL - 15, GBR - 89, NED - 30, RSA - 2, SWE - 1, USA - 1

images show competitors in some of the British Centurion races,  some of the trophies they can win  and finally celebrating the 100th anniversary

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