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What’s a Ranelagh?

The name originally comes from a district of Dublin. A family of Anglo-Irish peers held the title of Lord Ranelagh and their London estates were in the Putney and Fulham areas. Although the title is now extinct a number of roads and parks retain the name to this day, including Ranelagh Gardens, home of the Chelsea Flower Show. Many sports clubs also took on the name, including the Ranelagh Cricket Club; it was members of this club who, looking for some activity to keep themselves fit in the winter months, formed Ranelagh Harriers in September 1881.

Running Pioneers

1895 - Ranelagh host first recorded relay race in the UK
Ranelagh Harriers organise a track meet at Stamford Bridge and introduce an event called the ‘Flying Squadron Race’, the first ever recorded relay race in the UK.
1981 - Founded the London Marathon
Ranelagh members Chris Brasher and John Disley organised the inaugural London Marathon. Now the largest annual one-day fundraising event in the world.
2004 - parkrun launches
Founded by member Paul Sinton-Hewitt, parkrun holds its first event in Bushy Park on 2nd October 2004. Most of the thirteen runners and volunteers who attended this first event were Ranelagh Harriers.

Club Heroes

Arthur Stansbury in the 1930s
Arthur Stansbury emerged as Ranelagh’s dominant runner from the late 1920s and all through the 1930s after joining as a junior in the 1926/27 season. In 1929 he won the Surrey County Senior Championship. Between 1928 and 1939 he won a record 11 Club Cross-Country Championships (not participating in 1935). He was also the individual winner in 22 of the 28 mob matches he contested between 1929-1939. He retired from cross-country running after the Second World War.
Bill Bird
Bill Bird dominated the Club Championship in a similar vein to Arthur Stansbury in the 1930s. He won his first Senior Club Championship whilst still a junior in 1953, later followed by eight successive wins from 1958 leaving him two short of Stansbury’s record. He also won the Surrey County Senior Six Mile Championship in 1957. By 1962, he held the records for all of the club’s cross-country courses. In 1971, he captured the solo record for running the Pennine Way, a distance of 270 miles in four days, eight hours and eight minutes, taking 18 hours off the previous record.
Sid Thomas
Sid Thomas joined Ranelagh Harriers in 1886. One of our most successful runners, he went on to hold World Records at distances from 3 miles to 15 miles. He was also runner up in the English National Cross Country Championships in 1889. The club's season-opening handicap race is named after him. The winner receives the Thomas Cup, first run in 1891, having been presented to the Club by Sid in 1890 after winning it in a 10 mile race against E.W.Parry of Salford Harriers, the previous year.
Sonia Rowland
With an affiliation to the club dating back to 1958, Sonia Rowland is undoubtedly a club hero. She was one of the very first female club members to join the club in 1982 and went on to become women's club captain. Sonia's record of 55 scoring appearances in the Surrey XC League for the ladies team may never be beaten. She also stands fourth on the all-time list for mob match appearances with a huge gap over her nearest rival. Her numerous club records include the best WV55 age group time for the Thomas Cup, although Sonia is on record as identifying her club highlight as meeting and marrying fellow club hero, Steve Rowland!
Hugh Jones
Ranelagh Harrier Hugh Jones became the first British winner of the London Marathon in a time of 2 hours 9 minutes 24 seconds, breaking the UK All Comers record. Hugh is the club’s most successful ever athlete, representing the UK at the 1980 & 1982 World Cross-Country Championships, 1981 European Cup Marathon, 1984 Olympics, 1983 & 1987 World Athletics Championships, 1986 European Athletics Championships and 1991 World Cup Marathon. He is also the holder of several club records including 10km - 29.39; 10 miles - 47.20; Half Marathon - 62.41; and Marathon - 2.09.24, as well several cross-country course records. Hugh is a great club man, to this day still volunteering his time at the Ranelagh Half Marathon and 10km races in his capacity as course measurer and lead bike.
Priscilla Welch
Priscilla Welch joined Ranelagh Harriers and finished 2nd in the 1984 London Marathon in 2:30:06. Along with Hugh Jones she represented the UK in the Los Angeles Olympic Marathon becoming the first Ranelagh Harrier Olympians since 1908. Better things were to come on 10th May 1987 Priscilla broke the British Marathon record when coming 2nd at the London Marathon in a time of 2:26:51 (still 7th on the UK all-time list) and later that year won the New York City Marathon. Priscilla is our most successful female runner and still holds club records at 10km 32.25; 10 miles 56.49; Half Marathon 71.04; Marathon 2.26.50.
Ed Whitlock
Ed Whitlock, a Ranelagh Harrier member who lately resided in Canada, became the first over 70 to run a sub three hour marathon in a time of 2:59:10 at the age of 72. A year later, at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, he lowered the World 70-75 age record to 2:54:48 as a 73 year old. Ed was only getting started with his world record breaking achievements, at one time holding an incredible 36 age group world records. His other marathon age group records include: 75-79 - 3:04:54; 80-84 - 3:15:54 and 85-89 - 3:56:34.
Mike Peace
Ranelagh's affiliation with the London Marathon comes in many forms but is arguably embodied most of all in the form of club legend, Mike Peace. Having completed every single London Marathon since its inception, Mike remains part of one of the most exclusive clubs in the world. He stands second only to Dave Wright on the club's all time appearance record for mob matches and also has over twenty scoring appearances in the Surrey XC League. Despite now living in Devon, Mike can still be spotted regularly at club events wearing his famous yellow shorts, a fashion trend that still inspires younger club runners to this day.
James ‘Jimmy Whistles’ Whistler
A club member since 2011, James 'Jimmy Whistles' Whistler has quickly developed a reputation as a cult hero for the club. Frequently found leading local club races after 200 metres (but rarely after 400 metres), Jimmy's greatest achievement undoubtedly occurred in 2014 when he obliterated the Guinness World Record for the fastest half marathon dressed as a vegetable. Sporting a streamlined full body carrot suit, he knocked almost two minutes off the previous best in a time of 1:24:02. Other notable achievements include completing the Marathon du Medoc dressed as a French mime artist, as well as being part of the team that set a new record for the London to Cardiff 24 Hour Challenge.
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The Timeline

1881 - Foundation of Ranelagh Harriers
Ranelagh Harriers was formed in September 1881 and is one of the oldest running clubs in England.
The earliest members were from Ranelagh Cricket Club and it’s young club secretary Frank Wynne had the idea to form a cross country running club to keep fit during the winter months.

Viscount Ranelagh an Anglo-Irish peer held estates of land in the Putney and Fulham area and several roads, parks and sports clubs of the day took the Ranelagh name including Ranelagh Cricket Club of whom he was the patron and subsequently so did our own club.

The club was originally based out of the Green Man on Putney Heath and the club’s earliest recorded runs were out to the Windmill on Wimbledon Common and back.  The club colours of blue and amber date back to the formation of the club as the colours were inherited from the cricket club.
1883 - First Clutton Cup 10 mile cross-country handicap
The club has a long history of intra club cross country races that are still held annually and date back to the very beginning. The Clutton Cup 10 Mile Cross-Country Handicap was contested in 1883, followed by the Page Cup 3 Mile Cross-Country Handicap introduced in 1884; the Thomas Cup 3 Mile Cross-Country Handicap in 1891; the Wynne Cup 7 Mile Cross-Country Championship in 1905; the Coad Cup 5 Miles Summer Cross-Country Handicap in 1948.
1883 - The English Cross Country Union formed
Ranelagh Harriers was one of the original founding members of which only eleven clubs are still in existence.
1895 - The first relay
Ranelagh Harriers organise a track meet at Stamford Bridge and introduce an event called the ‘Flying Squadron Race’. It is the first known relay race to be held in the UK.
1907 - First mob match
First mob match held against Blackheath Harriers on 12th January 1907. This was the first fixture between the clubs to held on an ‘all to score’ or ‘mob match’ basis. Later Mob Matches would be introduced against South London Harriers in 1909, against Orion Harriers in 1920 and against Thames Hare and Hounds in 1974.
1935 - Headquarters crisis
The long established headquarters at the Green Man succumbed to housing development prompting a move to our current headquarters behind the Dysart Arms in Petersham. With new cross-country courses being established in Richmond Park.
1939 - 1945 War years
Activities were interrupted during the Second World War when cross-country events in Richmond Park were impossible as the park was closed off to the general public. During this period club members were temporary guests of the Thames Hare and Hounds at the Kings Head, Roehampton.

The War took its toll and with club members scattered far and wide club numbers were for a while gravely depleted. This period brought a struggle for survival, but with tremendous efforts from prominent members and not least Honorary Secretary Don Gardiner, the mid-fifties saw a remarkable resurgence in the clubs fortunes.
1950's - 1960's The club's resurgence
1950’s - 1960’s The resurgence from the mid-fifties was spearheaded by a quartet who were known for some years as the “four musketeers” Bill Bird, Jeff Bull, Alan Hedger and John Kirk.
1970’s and 1980’s Relay records
29th/30th May 1971 - Ranelagh Harriers break the Pennine Way Relay record covering 270 miles from the Old Nag’s Head, Edale to the Border Hotel, Kirk Yetholm in 33 hours 41 minutes and 15 seconds breaking the previous record by over 73 minutes.
6th/7th July 1973 Offa’s Dyke Path Relay - eighteen Ranelagh Harriers covered 168 miles in 24 hours, 48 minutes and 10 seconds knocking almost six and half hours off the previous record.
Barendrecht, Holland 100km track relay - Ranelagh teams won this event five years in a row between 1980 and 1984.

The 1984 team of Pautard, Wright, Riley and Collingridge set a record time of 4:46.48 averaging well under 70 seconds a lap with each member running 62 x 400 metres.
South Downs Way Relay - in 1985 a three-man team of David Wright, Mike Riley and Geoff Jones, in unfavourable conditions of wind and rain, recorded a time of 7 hours 8 minutes and 33 seconds over 72 miles beating the previous record by an astonishing 38 minutes.
1980 - Ranelagh half marathon
Ranelagh Half Marathon established in 1980. It was held at Effingham until 1993 and thereafter at Richmond.
1981 - London Marathon
Ranelagh members Chris Brasher and John Disley organised the inaugural London Marathon. You can find out full details of the clubs involvement in the setting up of the London Marathon
1982 - Introduction of ladies section of the club
It seems astonishing today but it wasn’t until 14th July 1982 at the AGM a motion was passed to introduce a Ladies Section to the club. For context it is important to remember that before the London Marathon it was extremely rare for women to run long distances and up until 1980 the longest women’s event in the Olympics was 1500 metres. Ranelagh Ladies have gone from strength to strength often outperforming the men in their respective individual and team cross-country results.
1991 - The inaugural club 10k
Dysart Dash 10km is established as the club’s annual 10km race. Later to be renamed the Ranelagh Harriers Richmond 10km held in Ham.
1992 and beyond - ladies team win
Ranelagh Ladies won their first Surrey Championship Team prize at the 1992 5km Championships, this would be the first of many.

Ranelagh Ladies won the 2005 and 2006 cross-country team championships following podium positions in 2001, 2002 and 2004. They were even more dominant on the roads being crowned champions - 5km - (1st team 1992, 1997, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2006; 1st individual L.Kipling 2002, J. Ronaldson 2005, 2006); 10 km - (1st team 1998, 1999, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006 and 1st individual Sarah Seal 2003); 10 miles - (1st team 2005 and 1st individual Sarah Seal 2003 and Marie Synnott-Wells 2005); Half Marathon - (1st team 2000, 2003, 2004, 2006 and 1st individual L.Cartwright 2000, M.Synnott-Wells 2004 and 2006); Road Relays - (1st team 2006).
Surrey Road League - (1st team 2002, 2005, 2006 and 1st individual L.Kipling 2002 and 2004, A.McLaughlin 2005).
1995 - First women's beginner course
The sports development team from the London Borough of Richmond ask all clubs in the borough to put on courses to encourage more women to participate in sports. Ranelagh Harriers held its first ever beginners running course for women and under the direction of Frances Ratchford it really helped the development of the women’s membership at the club. From 1995 women’s membership at the club grew from less than ten to more than 285 in only ten years.
2004 - parkrun launches
Parkrun set up by Ranelagh Harrier member Paul Sinton-Hewitt held its first event in Bushy Park on 2nd October 2004 under its former name of Bushy Park Time Trial. Most of the thirteen runners and a handful of volunteers who attended this first event were Ranelagh Harriers. It’s since gone on to develop into the world-wide phenomenon that it is today.
2006 - First Female President
Frances Ratchford is elected the club’s first female President after serving previously as Honorary Secretary.
2017 - Mob match winning streak ends
Ranelagh Harriers unprecedented winning streak of 15 mob match wins, the longest streak in the history of the traditional mob clubs, is ended by Thames Hare and Hounds at the match between the two on 4th November 2017.
2020 - 100th Mob match
On 7th March 2020 Ranelagh and Blackheath & Bromley contested the 100th mob match between the clubs with Ranelagh victors on home soil. In this fixture David Wright made his 180th mob match appearance, a truly remarkable statistic, especially when considering David moved from London to Cirencester in 1990 driving the 200 mile round trip to attend mob matches. A truly outstanding Ranelagh man. David ran his first mob match as a callow 17 year old in December 1974 missing only one since then in 1999 due to flu.