Roubaix 28 hours
Whilst the 2020 edition is going ahead , quarantine restirctions in many countries means no British, Russian or east European athletes this year.
The Roubaix 28 hour race has also seen its fair share of Centurions from across the globe compete over the decades in this classic race - which is always a Paris Alsace qualifying race.
The race now incorporates a 24 hour team relay
Why 28 hours?
The official 50th anniversary booklet says the race is 28 hours (as opposed to the usual 24 hours or 200km) as the start and finish was in the same street as the local cinema . The finish was timed to fit in between performances - thus capitalising on the maximum number of townsfolk out and about in the Rue d’epaule!
Apart from the first edition, the Roubaix 28H has always been held in September - and with only a few exceptions - always the third weekend.
Roubaix 28 hours - short history of the race
The classic Roubaix 28 hours began in 1954 - the brainchild of local walker Louis Bourgois.
Over the years it has gone through many changes - from the original organisational committee l’Academie des Sports de Roubaix to the present day Club des Marcheurs Roubaisiens (CMR).
The course itself has also undergone many changes. Starting in the Epaule quarter, the race has a history of a large first lap and continue on a shorter lap:
Originally an 11 km lap, the course grew to a grand first lap of 42km encompassing the surrounding areas - touching the Belgian border. The subsequent route went down many local streets - often changing from year to year as well as the distance itself.
The race now is held entirely within the Parc de Barbieux on a 2000 metre course.
Centurion John (Paddy) Dowling (pictured left - wearing bib number 2) led the British invasion in 1971 and was joined two years later by Colin Young. Other Centurions in the 1970s were Jim Hurley, Dave Boxall and Derek Harrison.
The number of athletes participating also fluctuated from 20 to 101 in 1980.
The first female was Dutch walker Adrie Dirven in 1978, quickly followed in 1980 by Annie van der Meer. In 1981, Centurion Ann Sayer entered and positioned 6th overall (2nd lady) with 217km.
The next few years saw the number of UK walkers increase as did the number of female participants including Sandra Brown in 1984. In 1986, eleven UK walkers took to the start line with Ed Shillabeer placing 3rd with 239km 890m. The number of UK walkers slowly increased - along with the support crew. In 1990, amongst the 15 UK walkers, Sandra Brown was the first lady with Kathy Crilley coming 3rd.
In 1995 there were 23 UK walkers and the number of other countries taking part rose to 14. Truly an international event.
Throughout the 2000s, numbers dwindled as they did in many race walking events - no matter the distance or the location.
However, the French were quick to “diversify” and soon Roubaix introduced the 24 hour relay alongside the 28 hour individual race.
Whilst Roubaix stalwarts Ken and Bob Watts continued with 28 hours, others went for the relay and has seen a few British teams taking part. (The Lightning Ladies and The Thunderbolts).
2012 saw a number of athletes from the Isle of Man take part with top placings of 2nd, 3rd 5th and totally astounded the French with their strong walking.
2018 was the first year no British walkers took part in the 28 hour race - but at least there was one British team (The Lightning Ladies) in the 24 hour relay.
2019 was the first year that there were no British walkers taking apart at all. Or, any Centurion.
Centurions from many countries - the US, Netherlands and Belgium as well as the UK have taken part over the years and hopefully will do so in years to come.
The daughter of Louis- Arlette BOURGOIS is still active in the club and in between lap recording and other race duties on the day - Arlette will always find time to support her British friends.
Kathy Crilley C933