Jim Peters - Great Britain - The marathon man

Photo/Foto: E. D. Lacey (1922-1976)

Date: 14 June 1952

Click on image to enlarge

      Thursday, 24 October 1918
      Homerton, London...Died 9th. January 1999 (age 80)
  • Great Britain

Jim PETERS - Great Britain - The marathon man


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)