14 JUNE 2020

90KM DOWN RUN

History 1921-1925

RACE RESULTS

1921-1925
Date Tuesday, 24 May
Weather Fine and mild to warm.
Start Venue/Time Pietermaritzburg City Hall / 7:10
Finish Venue Durban City Hall
Time Limit 12 Hours
Official Distance 89.929 km (54miles 1120yards)
Winner’s Average Speed 10.012 km/hr (6m 0s /km)
Entries 47
Starters 34
Finishers – Total 16
Men 16
Medals – Silver 16
% Finishers / Starters 47.1


In a single line across Commercial Road,
outside the City Hall, stood thirty-four official, and four unofficial, scantily clad men. They were waiting for someone to fire a pistol and send them on a pioneering journey, on foot, to the coast in faraway Durban; an unimaginable 54 miles away.

Shortly after 7 o’clock, a gunshot roared across the city and the greatest sporting extravaganza in the world was under way.

It was not a great extravaganza then, of course… but it has metamorphosed into such over the years.

No one knew what would happen to those pioneering souls, during the course of that day, as they shuffled down the hill and out of sight. The first leader, crossing the bridge over the Umsinduzi River was Butcher Purcell, followed by Harry Phillips and Bill Rowan.

Leaving the city, a dusty sand road meandered over the hills and through the valleys all the way to Durban. Purcell, Phillips and Rowan were still together at Cato Ridge but, by the foot of Inchanga, Purcell had fallen two minutes behind. As the two leaders left Drummond, Rowan went into the lead, where he remained.

Through Gillitts and Pinetown, followed by a convoy of bicycles, motorcycles and cars, Rowan increased the distance between himself and Phillips, who was plagued by a persistent knee injury.

Covered in brown, suffocating dust, but undeterred by it, Rowan finally strode down West Street, at the head of the convoy, to the finish line outside the City Hall. His time was 8h 59m. It remains, to this day, the slowest winning time.

Despite the troublesome knee, Phillips soldiered on, arriving at the City Hall in 9h 40m.

To commemorate his epic performance, the coveted Bill Rowan Medal was introduced in the Millennium year, 2000. It is awarded to those runners who fail to achieve a prestigious, sub 7h 30m, Silver Medal, but who finish inside 9 hours.

RESULT

1st Bill Rowan South Africa 8h 59m 00s Established Best Time Down
2nd Harry Phillips * South Africa 9h 40m 00s
3rd John Annan South Africa 10h 10m 00s
4th R.S. Skinner South Africa 10h 27m 00s
5th Butcher Purcell South Africa 10h 37m 00s
6th Russell Main South Africa 10h 44m 00s
7th Albert Marie South Africa 11h 04m 00s
8th Llyn Mitcalfe South Africa 11h 06m 00s
9th L.M. Moran ** South Africa 11h 13m 00s
9th A.A. Imray ** South Africa 11h 13m 00s

 

* Harry Phillips subsequently represented South Africa in the Marathon at the 1924 Summer Olympics in Paris where he finished in 19th position in 3h 07m 13s.

** Finished together.

1922 Up (2nd Race)
1923 Down (3rd Race)
1924 Up (4th Race)
1925 Down (5th Race)

1921 BILL ROWAN

1923 ARTHUR NEWTON

1930 WALLY HAYWARD

1931 PHIL MASTERSTON-SMITH

1933 HARDY BALLINGTON

1933 MAX TRIM-BOURNEN

1952 TREVOR ALLEN

1953 WALLY HAYWARD

1958 JACKIE MECKLER

1975 ELIZABETH CAVANAUGH

1975 VINCENT RAKABAELE

1979 ALAN ROBB

1983 BRUCE FORDYCE

1984 LINDSAY WEIGHT

1989 FRITH VAN DER MERWE

1989 SAMUEL TSHABALALA

2013 ELENA NURGALIVEA

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