Blakehurst or Burst

The race start, competitors lapping the SCG. Winner Andrew Sime, is no 6.

The first marathon race held in Australia took place in Sydney on 12 April 1909, and competitors came through the Georges River area.[1]  The race was organised by the NSW branch of the YMCA, and played on the enthusiasm for marathon-running that had been lit by the London Olympics of 1908.  The London Olympics was the first time the now standard distance of 26 miles and 385 yards was run, and is remembered for the disqualification of the exhausted Italian winner who had been helped across the finish line by the umpires.

The Sydney course was as follows: four laps round the Sydney Cricket Ground, then along Bunnerong Road, Gardeners Road, Canal Street, Cooks River Road, Rocky Point Road and Kogarah Road [Princes Highway] to Blakehurst Post Office, returning along the same route and finishing with one lap at the Sydney Cricket Ground.  At that time, Blakehurst Post Office was on the corner of Woniora Road and Kogarah Road (present-day Princes Highway).

Forty-eight competitors entered for the race, but only twenty-one showed up on the day.  Prior to the start every competitor was subjected to a medical examination. 

The half-way point – Blakehurst Post Office (1910s).  National Archives image B5919,4/10.

The Lord Mayor of Sydney (Alderman Allen Taylor) made a speech encouraging the runners to do their best, then sent them away on their journey at just after noon, amid a great volley of cheers from a very large gathering of onlookers. 

The course, which was by no means flat, went over some very uneven patches, and coverage in the Sydney Mail noted that the runners wavered when they encountered the aromas from the bone mills and wool scours at Gardeners Road.  Lovely.

The winner proved to be 25-year old Andrew R Sime of South Sydney Harriers (no 6 in the photo above).  He covered the distance in 3 hours 5 minutes 30.2.  This was only some ten minutes slower than the 1908 Olympic winning time. Sime’s entry into the Cricket Ground on the return journey was the signal for a great outburst of applause.  He finished quite vigorously, and was raised shoulder-high by his enthusiastic friends and borne to the dressing-rooms amid great enthusiasm.  Sime, interviewed just after the finish, thought he had done well to cover the distance on the back of only six weeks’ training.  He said he did not want to do any more marathon races.  But they all say that.

The next placed men and their times were: A Wood, 3 hours 13 minutes 3 seconds; J Lewis 3 hours 13 minutes 4 seconds (one second apart); G Bamford 3 hours 25 minutes 10 seconds; and H Flower (St George) 3 hours 31 minutes 8.2 seconds.  In a tight finish, Wood, the second man, only just beat Lewis, who was third by five yards.

Andrew Sime, the race winner, despite his protest did run several more marathons, and won the NSW championship in 1910.  He served as a Lieutenant in the 31st Battalion in WWI and was wounded in the chest and legs in July 1918.  He died in 1949.

Sun 2 June 1912.  Andrew Sime.

[1] Australian Town and Country Journal 21 April 1909, p23.

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