Follow in the footsteps of “Puff Puff” Pirie: Dec 1

Gordon "Puff Puff" Pirie in typical style, training hard in the 1950s

Gordon “Puff Puff” Pirie in typical style, training hard in the 1950s

Run in the footsteps of south London’s greatest distance runner in a special race staged over some of the most beautiful country, and demanding hills, in south-east England.

Six decades before Mo Farah, Britain had a world record-breaking distance runner called  Gordon Pirie.

Pirie was a South London Harrier who covered hitherto unheard of distances in training, legend has it often wearing heavy army boots for added effort, and with much of his mileage done over the beautiful rolling downs around his home in Coulsdon.

“Puff Puff” Pirie – so dubbed by the newspapers of the day for his habit of puffing out his cheeks when racing – was such a national hero that he was one of the first winners of the BBC’s Sports Personality of the Year Award.

Starting at 10am on Sunday, December 1, SLH is staging its annual 10-mile cross-country race named in honour of Pirie, the 1956 Olympic 5,000 metres silver medallist.

Pirie died in 1991, aged 60.

The Gordon Pirie 10 offers changing and showers at SLH’s headquarters in the Comrades’ Club in Coulsdon, and tea and cake for all finishers.

Staged over a two-lap course on the downs, there are prizes for men and women, and veterans.

But there is a time limit of 50 minutes for completion of the first lap – so you will need already to be a regular runner for whom long Sunday runs are already a habit, rather than an occasional outing.

The entry form, with further details, can be downloaded from the following link:


  • A week before the Pirie 10, on Saturday November 23, Streatham Common is to provide the demanding course for the 2013 South of the Thames cross-country, one of southern England’s most significant early season races. Entries for this event can only be made through the runner’s club (and they needed to register some time ago), but the event is well worth a watch. The starter’s gun is due to fire at 3pm.

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