Trawling through sporting history

Sideline Sid
Sports correspondent & historian

It's amazing what history buffs like Sideline Sid find when they trawl through past papers, looking for historical information.

A recent search revealed evidence of a marathon staged by the Tauranga Athletic Club more than 100 years ago.

The press report dated January 4, 1911, told the story of a second marathon race held in Tauranga.

The 1911 race was held over eight miles, a reduction from the nine miles of the inaugural race the previous year.

The course was from 'Springfield' following the main road southward to the borough, then along Cameron Road to the cricket domain (today's Tauranga Domain), where the last two miles were completed on the running track in the enclosure.

Mention was made of the large number of interested spectators, who went out to the start and accompanied the runners on horseback and horse drawn carriages.

Some 500 spectators were at the race finish, which is a good proportion of a town that had less than 3000 residents.

The eight (male) runners were sent away according to their handicaps and 13 minutes later the first runners arrived at the Gate Pa finger post.

There was plenty of drama for the spectators at finish at the cricket domain. Before the first lap was completed, Quinton retired leaving Addison in the lead just a couple of yards in front of Hall.

On the last lap, Hall put a gap on his rival, which was enough to give him victory by some 25 yards from Addison.

To the victor the spoils, saw Hall receive a handsome silver cup, with Addison awarded a gold medal for his meritorious performance in running second.

The marathon was just one of the events that took place on the day, with several other athletics events, chopping events and a baby show.

During the mid to the end of the ninetieth century and the early days of the twentieth century, athletics meets and chopping contests often took place at the many A&P (Agricultural and Pastoral) shows held in the Dominion.

A&P Shows originated from the Highland Games, brought to the country in the mid 19th century, with some such as the Waipu Highland Games which were first held in 1871, remaining to this day.

The diversity of athletics of the early 20th century is shown by one of the fathers of cricket and rugby in the Eastern Bay of Plenty.

FJ Burt was also an outstanding athlete who tied with Hori Eruera, who was the Australasian pole vault champion at the Opouriao Sports day on Boxing Day 1905.

During his athletics career, he is reputed to have started and won 56 sack races.

While athletics has given way to Father Time at today's A&P Shows, the traditions of earlier times continue on at such as the Waipu Highland Games, where many of the traditional Scottish events such as Scottish dancing, tug of war, piping and drumming and the caber toss,  still take place.


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