the foundation of the Centurions
how it all started off in England many years ago... a potted history...
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.
Interesting to note, though, that "professional" athletes still existed at this time!
But 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 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 where James Edward Fowler-Dixon, having walked 100 miles in a recorded time of 20 hours 36 minutes 8 seconds in a race at Lillie Bridge, Fulham, London in 1877, was elected President as he was designated as the senior and longest qualified person present, and so was given the memorable membership number “1”.
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 of the traditional courses.
A few facts:
- The Brighton double journey (London to Brighton and back) was organised by Surrey Walking Club 17 times between 1902 and 1967.
- 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 1994 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.
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 emulated in Australia, the Netherlands, USA, Africa, Malaysia and New Zealand.
Read more on > Centurions Worldwide