Centurions history - New Project

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Centurions history

a short history of the Centurions

the foundation of the Centurions
and how it all started in England  many years ago..

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.  And no doubt, 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. Opposite - signatures of the founder members.
foundation days

The idea of forming the "Brotherhood " was conceived by E.R. Bob Gillespie, who 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. 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 was given the memorable membership number “C.1”.   

Later years
Races were infrequent between 1912 and the Second World War, the major event being the London to Brighton and Back, held once every 4 years. By 1939, 120 people had qualified as Centurions but after 1946, 100 mile races and 24 hour walks became more frequent - at least one a year - and so the membership increased.

Teams from other countries have taken part in the races, including the Netherlands, what was then Czechoslovakia and West Germany and also Belgium and Canada. Women were allowed to become members in 1977, and by 2011 (the Centenary year) there were 1082 Centurions.  A Dutch Centurion Club was established in 1966 as the Continental Centurion and a British centurion who emigrated to Australia set up the Australian Centurion Club.

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. These courses 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.
Over the years, many overseas race walkers have  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,  this concept has since been copied in other countries.

The numerous Dutch and Belgian members of Centurions 1911 now have their own active organisation, the Centurion Vereniging Nederland (CVN), and each year the English and Dutch Centurions compete for a special trophy at the British Centurion 100 mile race.
The other five Centurion organisations worldwide are:
the Continental Centurions (based in the Netherlands)  Africa,  Australia, New Zealand, and  the USA and many British Centurions travel far and wide to compete in these races. Malaysia did organise several races, but this was discontinued in 2007.

1911 - 2011 and beyond

  • The Centurions held their 60th Anniversary Dinner at the House of Commons in 1971
  • The 95th Re-union dinner was held at the RAF Club in London and attracted a total of 65 Centurions and guests.
  • The Centenary of Centurions1911 was celebrated at a special dinner held at the Houses of Parliament in London in 2011. The dinner attracted 164 Centurions and guests from France, Netherlands, Canada as well as the UK

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