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Bradford Whit Walk race committee is disbanded
The Bradford & County Walking Association, formed in 1903 to organise the historic Whit Walk, has disbanded.
The Whit Walk - the world’s longest continuously held amateur distance event - finished in 2011 so there was little point in the organisation carrying on.
Geoff Dowling, president of Yorkshire Race Walking Club and a former secretary, said: “There were only two members left of the Bradford Whitsuntide Walk Committee - chief timekeeper Ken Petry, who is 88, and myself, and I am 80 so we decided to ‘draw the curtains’.”
The Whit Walk started 110 years ago - the same year as the Bradford Cricket League, and the Bradford & County Walking Association was formed by local businessmen.
The association’s jobs was to organise the race, the prize for which was a solid 18 carat diamond-mounted gold medal, and a silver cup presented by James E Hammond, of Hammond’s Brewery.
Hammond was on the first committee, as was famous Bradford silversmith and jeweller Tony Fattorini and local athletics journalists Harry Jennings and Rueben Walton.
Race walking - both amateur and professional - was a great attraction at the turn of the century, with events attracting thousands of spectators.
Bradford newspapers reckoned that “the craze for race walking would not last long”, but they were wrong, with the 1908 Whit Walk culminating in a prize-giving by the Lady Mayoress of Bradford “in the presence of 40,000 people”, said the Surrey Walking Gazette, while the 1941 walk attracted an entry of 372.
However, things have taken a major turn for the worse since, with Dowling adding: “Britain has not enjoyed Olympic race walking success since the war”.
Last year’s race was cancelled after only four men and one woman entered - numbers that Dowling called “pathetic in a year when we were staging the Olympics”.
He does not think that race walking is enitirely a dead duck, however, adding: “The Yorkshire Race Walking Club, who have promoted the Northern Area Winter League which finishes this weekend in Drighlington, are holding a 35km Bradford event round Baildon Moor this year.
“Hopefully it will be an annual event on spring bank holiday Mondays.”
Dowling has updated a book on the Whit Walk, which will list all the winners from 1903-2011 and includes many pictures. It is currently at the printers.