London to Brighton Walk
The great race
Early in 1903 William Bramson, a member of the London Stock Exchange, had the idea that the Exchange should join the current craze of pedestrianism, and that members of the House and their clerks be persuaded to attempt to walk from Westminster Bridge to the sea front at Brighton, a distance of 53 miles, in a time of 12 hours and 30 minutes.
Bramson consulted with a few friends in the Market and subsequently a committee was formed and the organisation of the race was put in motion. Some 100 years later members and clerks of the Stock Exchange are still attempting to do the same.
The idea of such an event caught the imagination of the House and soon they had 100 entries. It was decided no charge would be made for entries and that the first man to complete the course would receive a gold medal, value 10 guineas, with second and third medals to the value of 5 guineas each. It was also agreed that there would be a sealed handicap race with a silver cup to the value of 10 guineas to the winner, with prizes to second and third, and that Bramson would be responsible for the handicapping. Because of the amount of organisation required, it was agreed that the race should be held on the 1st May, that being a Stock Exchange holiday. Entrants started training, some even employed professional trainers, and members were sighted striding through the country roads most weekends.
Near the date several sweep stakes were organised in the House, the largest being in the Kaffir market with a first prize of £350. By the eve of the race bets of several thousands of pounds were made and it was reported some market pitches resembled miniature Tattersalls.
On the day of the race the weather was wet and windy. The race had had much publicity and it was reported that 30,000 spectators were in the Westminster Bridge area. Because of the crush, the competitors failed to reach the start line at the official time and the race started with the bulk of the competitors three minutes late. A large number of mounted and foot police were required to clear a passage through the human mass to allow the 87 official competitors to proceed the first few miles.
Prominent companies were present on the road advertising their wares. Among the most popular of these were the OXO cars, who handed competitors refreshments which included OXO, hot or cold, OXO and champagne, OXO and soda, cheese, biscuits, bananas and apples.
The winner of this first race was E F Broad, a clerk with the broking firm of Marsden & Co, who completed the course in nine hours 30 minutes 1 second, and the winner of the sealed handicap was S E Knight in 10 hours 8 minutes 30 seconds. Of the 87 starters, 77 completed the course in the allotted time. In 1910 the Stock Exchange Athletic Club was formed and has been responsible for the organisation of the races since, although the second race was not until 1912.
Here is a link to a Pathe film of the 1932 race which gives a good sense of the interest in these events