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The First Relay Race

As previously reported on the club history page, Ranelagh Harriers members were pioneers for organising the first athletics relay event to be held in England.  At the time it was seen as a novelty event but The Sportsman report at the time, also seen below, hinted at shorter distance relays to come.

The following is a first hand account by one of the competitors, H. F. Pash of Essex Beagles, written in 1930.


On two or three occasions, when travelling to an athletic meeting with competitors, I asked them whether they knew the date of the first relay race in this country. Owing to the fact that a Relay Championship was not included in the AAA Championship programme until 1911, they were surprised to hear that the first relay race was held sixteen years earlier, viz., on September 14th 1895, at the Ranelagh Harriers’ meeting at Stamford Bridge. It was described in the programme as a “Flying Squadron Race”; three competitors represented each club, and the distances were rather unusual, compared with relay races in recent years, viz., quarter-mile, three-quarter-mile and one mile, making up the full distance of two miles.


It may be interesting to record the names of the fifteen starters, the distances being run in the following order, quarter-mile, three-quarter-mile, one mile:-


BLACKHEATH HARRIERS:  R. D. F. Paul, G. M. Harris, J. W. Palmer,

ESSEX BEAGLES: H. F. Pash, A. J. C. Watson, J. T. Collins,

FINCHLEY HARRIERS: H. D. Casey, A. E. Relf, R. Wellin,

POLYTECHNIC HARRIERS: P. M. Calder, G. H. Lee, E. Robbins,

RANELAGH HARRIERS: M. Croly Hart, H. R. Tracey, M. Davie


At the time I regarded this item in the programme as a kind of “freak” event, and did not realise as I took up my position at the start for the first stage, the quarter-mile, that I was taking part in an historic event in the athletic world. I might add that I was only twenty years old, and in those days a visit to the famous Stamford Bridge ground seemed an adventure of the highest importance to a provincial runner.


At the end of the first quarter-mile, H. D. Casey (Finchley H.) led, and A. E. Relf, who took up the running, finished first at the end of the full mile, R. Wellin, of the same club, leading throughout the second mile, and winning by 15 yards from E. Robbins (Polytechnic H.). M. Davie (Ranelagh H.), J. T. Collins (Essex B.) and J. W. Palmer (Blackheath H.) occupied the third, fourth and fifth positions. The time of the winning team was 8 min 57.7 sec.


The Sportsman,  in its “Athletic Notes”, made the following comments:-


“It is to be hoped that other meetings will follow the Ranelagh Harriers’ example in the matter of including a novelty in their programmes. The flying squadron race was quite the feature of the afternoon. The event could be made even more interesting by winding up with a short distance.”

may, 2024

Surrey cross country league standings

LeagueTeam PositionFull details
Ladies Div 17/15league table
Men Div 18/9league table
Ladies Div U159/16league table
Men Div U15/U1716/18league table