Eltham College marked the centenary of Eric Liddell’s Paris Olympics victory with an epic fundraising run

At the 1924 Paris Olympics, Scottish-born runner Eric Liddell, a recent student at Eltham College, won gold in the 400m final. Shortly afterwards, he followed his vocation and became a Christian missionary. A century on, students at Eltham College have marked his life and achievements with an almost 700-mile fundraising run.

A boarder at Eltham College from 1908-20, Liddell won the school’s Blackheath Cup for best sportsman and captained Senior cricket and rugby teams. At University of Edinburgh, he was selected for the national rugby team, distinguishing himself in the 1922 and ’23 Five Nations.

Liddell’s Olympic gold in 1924 – alongside that of 100m gold medallist Harold Abrahams – inspired the Oscar-winning 1981 film Chariots of Fire. This details the two athletes’ achievements, and also Liddell’s refusal to run the 100m on a Sunday. One scene in the film remains fresh for many viewers – two great athletes running on the sands at St Andrews.

Eric Liddell was also a talented rugby player, captaining the rugby team at Eltham College (pictured with ball) and later playing for Scotland

This helped inspire the end point of an extraordinary venture. In early June, 12 students completed an epic week-long run between Paris and Scotland on the beach at St Andrews. Eltham College students had been joined by pupils from St Leonard’s School, which is located in the Fife town. The 12 runners had set off from the British Embassy in Paris and the relay was organised so that each student ran for approximately 30 minutes before handing on to the next runner in a continuous cycle to cover the distance. Their run ended in Edinburgh with a reception at the French Consulate. This was then followed by the concluding run along the beach at St Andrews, where the long-distance runners joined the town’s annual fundraising 5k Chariots Beach Race along West Sands.

Eltham College runner Bleddyn Mottershead, 17, says: “Although Eric Liddell had many sporting successes, he still stuck to his principles. He turned away from the fame and fortune that he could have had to become a missionary. We have focused on his values a lot in preparing for this event”. Deputy Head Co-Curricular James Willatt says: “We are incredibly proud of the students… I don’t think they quite realise what they have achieved”.

Students have run in memory of a great man and also hope to raise £24,000 for three charities – Personal Best Foundation, Mary’s Meals UK and The Eric Liddell Community. Donate or find out more at eltham-college.org.uk

Further reading: Hazelgrove Prep’s Olympic moment