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’.
Bennett – ‘The Shapwick Express’
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
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
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
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
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