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27th October 2018, Fryent Park

This coming month sees the return of the most important—and historic—fixture on the running calendar: the Liddiard Trophy. The cross-country meet, comprising a five-mile race for men and three-mile route for women, enters its 72nd edition on Saturday, 27th October at Fryent Park in Brent.

Once a standalone event, the Liddiard is now also the North of the Thames Champs.

But what makes it so special for the Hoops?

Making history

The race itself is a tribute to one of the founding members of Queen’s Park Harriers: EJ Liddiard. He was one of a group of pupils at St Judes Institute who decided to create a sports club involving athletics and football among other activities (The footballers, incidentally, would end up breaking away and merging with Christ Church Rangers to form the modern-day Queen’s Park Rangers). He was with the club up until his death in 1946, making him the longest-surviving founder member.

In his honour, the Hoops held the inaugural Liddiard Trophy meet in 1947. The race was won by Shaftesbury Harriers (later Shaftesbury Barnet Harriers). This club which would go on to have a storied history with the event, winning it several times in the 1970s and 1980s, fielding teams littered with internationals. At its height, the meet attracting around 300 runners and riders.

The trophy

With eight to score and three individuals allowed per team, The Liddiard is a team event which has arguably one of the most eye-catching prices in UK athletics: a solid silver depiction of a runner, complete in casing.

The trophy has been awarded to the winning team since the race’s inception, with the victors able to take the prize home for the year.

The people

Yet while victory is the goal for some, the race itself is a reminder of the selflessness of the running community, and especially Hoopsters, to host and perpetuate such an historic and meaningful race.

Take Cecil Gittins, a man who joined Queens Park Harriers in the same year of Liddiard’s death—1946. Up until his passing a couple of years ago, he was still an active member of club, attending committee meetings and helping to keep the Hoops chugging along.

And if you plan to be around on race day, be sure to look out for Peter Hunt, another Liddiard contemporary, who helped to rescue Queen’s Park Harriers from folding essentially on his own in the early 1970s. He is still an active member and decision-maker at the club, and makes sure to come down every year from his current home in south Wales to oversee the Liddiard to ensure its smooth running.

More than a race

For the majority of competitors out there, the Liddiard will be just another fun cross country meet to pencil into the calendar each October. But for the Hoops this year, it’s a celebration of more than 130 years of history, and a chance to reflect on the 72 years of running we’ve all enjoyed since the passing of EJ Liddiard, the last of a group of boys who had the bright idea in school to set up an athletics club.

Here’s to the next 72.

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