Historic route of the 1908 London Games’ marathon revealed

University of Westminster flag

An Education in Sport: Competition, communities and identities at the University of Westminster since 1864’ by Mark Clapson, Reader in History, draws on the University’s extensive archives to tell the stories of its sports clubs and facilities that have long been at the heart of London life, producing more than 30 Olympic medal winners and over 100 Olympic competitors. 

An Education in Sport’ reveals the key role of the Regent Street Polytechnic, now the University of Westminster, in organising the opening and closing ceremonies for the 1908 Games, the first to be hosted in London. The Polytechnic Harriers organised the route for the 1908 marathon, establishing the international standard distance of 26 miles and 385 yards that is still used today. The club’s secretary, Jack Andrew, was involved with the race’s dramatic conclusion, helping the dehydrated Dorando Pietri of Italy over the finish line. Pietri was disqualified and the second runner, Johnny Hayes of the USA, was declared the winner. Such was the popular support for Pietri that he was presented with a special medal by Queen Alexandra. Members of the Polytechnic’s athletics, cycling and boxing clubs all won medals at the 1908 Olympics, with Charles Henry Bartlett winning gold in the 100km cycling.

Some of the finest athletes of the 20th century have competed for the University and its predecessors, including Olympians such as Arthur Wint of Jamaica and Emmanuel McDonald Bailey of Trinidad, Violet Webb, Thomas Lance, Harry Ryan, George Albert Hill, Dame Mary Glen-Haig and David Ricketts. Alan Pascoe MBE – a member of the Polytechnic Harriers athletics club – won silver in the 4 x 400m relay at the 1972 Games in Munich. More recently, as Vice-Chairman to Lord Coe, he played a key role in the successful British bid to host this year’s Games.

Today the University of Westminster boasts excellent sporting facilities. Its boathouse and sports ground at Chiswick span for 45 acres and include floodlit synthetic turf pitches, netball and tennis courts as well as natural pitches for cricket, rugby and football. In addition, its Regent Street building is equipped with a state of the art modern gym.

Professor Geoffrey Petts, Vice-Chancellor, comments:

‘The Games are an opportunity for London to showcase its unique multiculturalism, together with its cultural and sporting heritage, a heritage that the University of Westminster most definitely shares with its home city. As Chair of PODIUM, the Further and Higher Education Unit for the London 2012 Games, I am pleased to continue the Westminster tradition of engagement with the Games and to contribute in a small way to building a legacy from the 2012 Games by promoting opportunities, fostering collaborations and enhancing experiences.’

An Education in Sport’ will be launched at the University’s historic 309 Regent Street headquarters on Tuesday 24 April 2012 at 6.30pm.

For further information, please contact:

Sarah Evans-Toyne, Lianne Robinson or Chiara Barreca
Broadgate Mainland
Email: [email protected]
Telephone: +44(0) 20 7726 6111

Press and media enquiries

Contact us on:

+44 (0)20 3506 9464 (9am-5pm Monday to Friday)
+44 (0)7970 483 778

[email protected]