Friday 7 August 2020

72 years on – the Olympic marathon race at Wembley, 1948

Guest blog by Philip Grant

Two weeks ago, we celebrated the 1908 Olympic marathon race on its 112th anniversary, with a video including newsreel film of the two leading runners, with a crowd in Wembley High Road watching them.

The Olympic marathon runners on a circuit of the track, before leaving Wembley Stadium, 7 August 1948.

When I wrote to Joe Neanor, who had made the video, he said that he had also recently run the 1948 Olympic Marathon race route – and he supplied a link to a colour film of the race, which took place 72 years ago today. That race started and finished in Wembley Stadium, and went out and back along Forty Lane, Fryent Way and Honeypot Lane to Stanmore, with a loop through the countryside of Hertfordshire. It was a tough course, with plenty of hills to climb!
The 1948 Olympic marathon course map and details. (Images from the internet)

If you watch the video below, it will take you back in time, and you will spot scenes you recognise, as they were in 1948, including Olympic Way and the Town Hall. As the runners head back towards Wembley, there are some key moments in the race, along Fryent Way with what are now the fields of Fryent Country Park in the background. And the finish in the stadium is almost as dramatic as that in the 1908 Olympic marathon!

As you can see the International Olympic Committee has banned live viewing of the video on Wembley Matters but you can view it on You Tube by clicking on the embedded link or use this LINK.


Philip Grant said...

A comment from Joe Neanor, after I sent him a link to this blog:

'It’s nice to remember these events, to keep the courses alive and help the achievements of the athletes to endure.

I like the list of “mile markers”. Maybe one day I will (slowly) cover the course again as a single run marathon, if so will take the mile marker list with me.

Enjoyed watching the film again.

Last week I completed the 2012 Olympic course (basically loops of Westminster and the City). So have now covered 1908, 1948 and 2012 courses. The best one for running today is probably 1948, hillier than the others but generally with longer stretches of uncrowded roadside tarmac. The most atmospheric? 1908.'

Thank you, Joe, for drawing attention to the "Wembley" marathon videos, so that local people could enjoy them and see part of our amazing local heritage.

Philip Grant said...

Please don't be put off from watching the video by the initial screen you see when you click on the arrow!

Just click on the 'Watch on YouTube' link, and you will access the video with no problem.

Philip Grant said...

I've received an email from a friend who read this blog, and enjoyed the video. He wrote:

'My late father was helping on the day. He was holding up one of the posts (they used signs on hand-held poles) - I think he said that it was the 17 mile marker and from his description it was in the northern part of the route.'

I knew his father, who must have been a young scout master at the time. The Wembley Boy Scouts did a great job, as volunteers, in helping make the 1948 Olympic Games a success.