Marathon history

MARATHON EFFORT: The start of the 1912 Olympic Games Marathon
MARATHON EFFORT: The start of the 1912 Olympic Games Marathon

ONE hundred years ago, an unassuming athlete from Cleckheaton made his mark in history by completing his second Olympic Games Marathon.

Fred Lord, who lived in South Parade, was one of just four men to finish the 1912 marathon in Stockholm, having also completed the same event in the previous games in London.

His story appears in a book, Manchester Marathons 1908-2002, co-authored by Neil Shuttleworth of Hyde in Cheshire, and athletics legend Ron Hill.

And now Neil is hoping that, as the 2012 Olympics kick off this weekend, Fred’s remarkable story will become more widely known.

“I take my hat off to Fred’s remarkable achievement,” said Neil.

“He was a very successful athlete of his day, and much credit must go to him as only three other men were able to compete in and finish the Stockholm Olympic Games Marathon and the previous one in 1908.

“The tragedy was that he died in 1928 aged 48, from septicaemia after using an old knife as a shoe horn when he was putting on his clogs for work.”

Fred joined Wibsey Harriers in 1905, aged 26, after a successful career as a swimmer. Soon he was winning medals at club and country level.

By 1908 his ability over longer distances was such that he contested the trials for the Olympic Marathon and was selected for the Great Britain and Ireland team. He finished that epic marathon in 15th place.

Four years later he took up the challenge again and in the trial was fifth, securing a place at the Stockholm Olympics.

“He was one of 60 British athletes, the third largest team behind Sweden and America,” said Neil.

“Some reports reckon the temperature in Stockholm was in excess of 30 degrees, and many marathoners had ‘linen hats or handerchiefs on their heads as a protection against the great heat’, according to the Official Olympic Games Report.

“Half of the 68 starters would fall by the way, the same proportion as in the Great Britain team of eight. The organisers laid on refreshments and medical assistance and the dusty road had been swept and watered beforehand.

“The marathon began at 1.48pm and the distance was about 40km. Lord, who had been handily placed and never worse than sixth, was up with the leaders until the last check with five kilometres left. He fell back but soldiered on gallantly to finish 21st, some 24 minutes behind the winner, Kenny McArthur of South Africa.”

“Lord – ‘a well-built youth, tall and sinewy, without any surplus flesh’ – had a physcially demanding job as a chemical process worker, yet he was able to attain the peak of fitness for two Olympic Games and survive the heat each time.

“Exactly 100 years later, this July 14, the Stockholm Olympic Marathon was recreated, but few would be as fast as the Wibsey Harrier a century ago on that boiling hot summer’s day.”

Are any of Fred’s descendants still living in Spen. Contact the Spenborough Guardian on 01274 874635.