|During the 1950s, Jim Peters played a major role in revolutionising the
pace at which marathons were run, lowering the world's best time on four
occasions. His greatest successes came in the Polytechnic or 'Poly'
marathon, organised annually by the Polytechnic Harriers in England.
Peters won the Poly marathon in four successive years from 1951 to 1954.
In 1951, he won in a British record time of 2hr 29min 24sec. This run
was far surpassed by his next three Poly marathons, all of which were
won in a world's best time. In 1952 he clocked 2hr 20min 42.2 sec (see photo above),
followed in 1953 with a time of 2hr 18min 40.2sec, and finally a career
best 2hr 17min 39.4 sec in 1954. Despite Peters having set fast times
many minutes faster than his fellow competitors, his performances at
major international championships were both sad and tragic. At the 1952
Helsinki Olympic Games he took the field out at a very fast pace, and
had a lead of 16 seconds at 10km. Soon after 25km he started developing
severe cramps, and although he fought on bravely, the cramps forced him
to retire from the race after 30km while in 4th position.
Unfortunately, he is most remembered for a race that he not only didn't
win, but also failed to finish. The marathon at the 1954 Commonwealth
Games in Vancouver was held in oppressively hot and humid conditions.
Seemingly ignoring the conditions, Peters led out at near world record
pace. He entered the stadium with a 17 minute lead, but was suffering
badly from severe heatstroke and dehydration. He staggered towards the
finish, falling several times, and finally collapsed just short of the
finish, whereupon he was rushed to hospital by British officials.
Following medical advice, he retired from athletics after this race. (Ron Casey)