Wimborne Athletic Club

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Remembering Dorset’s First Olympic Hero

Charles Bennett Olympic Mile – Shapwick, 22 July 2012

Britain’s first Olympic track & field gold medallist was Charles Bennett, a local railwayman. He was born in the village of Shapwick, a combination of his birthplace, his athletic prowess, and his occupation saw him earn the sobriquet ‘The Shapwick Express’.


Charles Bennett – ‘The Shapwick Express’

His first Olympic medal came with gold (and a world record) in the 1,500m in the Paris Olympics in 1900 (he also won silver in the 4,000m steeplechase and second gold in a 5,000m team race in Paris). Charles Bennett returned to Wimborne for a post-Olympic civic reception and, according to legend, was carried shoulder-high through the streets of the town.

In 2012 he will be remembered once more, in the form of ‘The Charles Bennett Olympic Mile’. Shapwick, in tribute to its local hero, will be celebrating by hosting a series of eight one-mile charity road races on Sunday 22nd July 2012 – 112 years to the day Charles Bennett claimed his second Olympic Gold for the 5,000m team race.

The event will open with athletes carrying Olympic torches from London 1948 and London 2012, followed by a race for villagers at 12.30pm. Races continue throughout the afternoon for people of all ages and abilities: from club runners and elite athletes to paralympic competitors and casual joggers.

Wimborne AC is fortunate to have four 2012 Olympic torchbearers, and all four of them will be at Shapwick with their torches. Click here to read their nomination stories.

Charles Bennett’s grandson, Chris, will be presenting race winners with their medals along with local Commonwealth athlete, Roger Matthews and veteran members of Charles Bennett’s club, Finchley Harriers.

The Charles Bennett Olympic Mile is being organised by Voice of Shapwick, the village community group, in association with Bournemouth and Wimborne Athletic Clubs. The celebration is also a fundraising charity event.

The main beneficiary of the day is the Pilgrim Bandits, a 'no sympathy' charity formed to push returned amputee servicemen and women to their personal limits. They will be attending with their very first Forces Patron, Lance Bombardier Ben Parkinson, the most seriously injured soldier to survive the war in Afghanistan. He lost both legs, and suffered brain damage, and spinal injuries in a roadside bomb attack in 2006. After years of rehabilitation he is finally able to walk on high-tech prosthetic legs. On 26th June 2012 thousands of well-wishers cheered him on as he carried the Olympic torch through his home town of Doncaster to great acclaim. No stranger to challenges, Ben will be taking part in the Charles Bennett Olympic Mile on his hand-bike. Click here to see more about Ben Parkinson’s inspiring story. To find out more about the Pilgrim Bandits visit the charity’s website at http://pilgrimbandits.com.

In his day, Charles Bennett was best known as a champion miler – holding the regional title from 1894 to 1900 and English Amateur title in 1900. Only three other Britons have won Olympic Gold for 1500m: Arnold Jackson (Stockholm, 1912), Albert Hill (Antwerp, 1920) and Sebastian Coe (Moscow, 1980 and Los Angeles, 1984).

The Charles Bennett Olympic Mile has been selected as one of the events forming the Wimborne AC Roadrunners’ Club Championship for 2012. With Shapwick en fête that day it should be a great occasion.

For more information about the race and details of how to enter visit www.shapwick.com.



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