Over the years Running Past has covered a number of pioneering South London athletes – including the mid-19th century Tom Cook, the Greenwich Cowboy; William Gazley, the Star of Kent, the triple jumper Philip Kingsford and marathon runner Charlie Gardiner. Another distance runner of the same era to Gardiner was Edgar Lloyd – they probably never completed together as the former was a professional whilst the latter remained an amateur. Edgar Lloyd had his 15 minutes of fame, well 6 hours 13 minutes and 58 seconds to be precise, in taking the World 50 mile record at Stamford Bridge in 1913.
William Edgar Lloyd was born in Lewisham on 31 July 1886. He never used the ‘William’ and in press reports of his career was generally referred to as E W Lloyd. Edgar was the second of four children of Magdelena and William Lloyd who had married in Croydon in 1881 – Magdelana was from Baden in Germany and was listed as a governess in the 1881 census. William had something on an odd work history in the 1881 and 1891 censuses he was referred to a ‘Professor of Music,’ however in 1901 he was a storekeeper for an electrical engineer and in 1911 a book keeper for a corn merchant.
The family moved around a lot within Lewisham – in 1891 they were at 107 Gilmore Road (pictured above), moving to Ladywell Park in 1901 (roughly where the 1960s variant of Ladywell swimming pool was located) and to an also now demolished house on Perry Hill in 1911. Edgar was still living at home in 1911, working as a telephone engineer for a firm called Miller; he had left school by the time he was 14 – working as an office boy for an engineering draughtsman in 1901.
In an interview after the record breaking race in 1913, Edgar suggested that he had been drawn to distance running by Petrie’s efforts in the 1908 London Olympic marathon (covered in the post of Charlie Gardiner), whether he had much of an athletic background before that isn’t clear (1).
Why he joined Herne Hill Harriers (HHH) rather than one of the more local clubs isn’t obvious either; as an earlier post on athletics on Blackheath covered – there were three active local clubs Blackheath Harriers then based at the Green Man, Cambridge Harrier and Kent Athletic Club. Herne Hill Harriers though seem to have had bases in Eltham and Croydon though which may have encouraged him.
Edgar’s name started to appear in reports and results of local cross country and other races from the autumn of 1908. He took part in a cross country race in Eltham organised by HHH in October 1908 around what was then the upper reaches of the Little Quaggy through the farm land of Coldharbour and Chapel Farms, he didn’t ‘place’ though (2).
He improved quickly, competing in 4¾ mile handicap road race from HHH’s Croydon base at the now closed Leslie Arms in Lower Addiscombe Road in Croydon on a November evening. He came 10th, with the 3rd best time – the quickest was Harry Green with whom he would compete at the 1912 Olympics (3).
Early in 1909 Edgar, pictured (4) was to come 25th in the highly competitive South of Thames 7½ mile race, which is still organised. The race was held in a ‘little old-world village’ the clue to its location was that it was ‘within mile or so of the tram terminus at Catford’ – Southend (see below – via eBay April 2016). They raced over land belonging to the Forsters – so it probably included Forster Memorial Park and possibly the then home to Catford Southend FC and later Waygood Athletic. Ahead of him was another HHH runner – Jack Gardiner, brother of Charlie. Jack’s vest was often worn for good luck by Charlie. HHH won comfortably, Edgar didn’t even ‘score’ for them he was the 7th Herne Hill runner home (5).
He seems to have upped his distances during the next couple of years and competed in the 1911 Polytechnic Marathon over the 1908 London Olympic course from Windsor – he came 7th to finish in 3:01:57, in an era when times were much slower. The race was won by his HHH team mate Harry Green in 2:46:29 (6). While other references to him running other marathon races have not been found it can be assumed that he ran a few others, probably including the 1912 edition of the Polytechnic Marathon, as he was good enough to be selected for the 1912 Olympic marathon. (Poster on a Creative Commons via Wikipedia)
Edgar was well down the field in the race in Stockholm, finishing 25th from the 68 starters in a time of 3:09:25 for the 40.2 km course. Conditions though were described as ‘very hot’ with only 35 finishers. Edgar is probably visible in film footage of the race.
Edgar’s 50 mile race was a somewhat strange affair. It was organised by Finchley Harriers and was held at Stamford Bridge, which still had an athletics track surrounding the football pitch at that stage and as was noted in relation to Philip Kingsford, was home to the London Athletic Club. There were races within races – the first few won by Edgar’s club mate Harry Green including
- 20 Miles – 1:56:51 (8)
- 2 hours – 20 Miles 952 yards (9)
- Marathon 2:38:16 (10)
After this point the centre of attention turned to Edgar Lloyd pictured (11) who steadily drew away from the rest of the small remaining field. At times, it was a bit of a struggle for Edgar as he got ‘rather short in his stride’ but he started beating the records set by Dixon in 1885 by 42 miles, despite a wobble around 45 miles when it appeared that he might fall behind Dixon’s time. However, he got something of a second wind and finished well – taking 4:28 off the previous world best time (12). The Stamford Bridge track is picture below in 1909 from Wikipedia.
How long the record stood for isn’t that clear, ultra-running was at that time, and still is, a niche sector of athletics and until the on-line era got relatively little press coverage. While there are no mentions of Edgar having competed in ultra events after 1913, it doesn’t mean that he didn’t. The 1913 event probably only got the level of coverage that it managed due to the record. It isn’t clear how long Edgar’s record stood – by 1984 Bruce Fordyce had taken the time down to 4:50:21.
After the world record race, he still continued to compete, although like every athlete of his generation his career was disrupted by the War. There are a few press mentions beyond 1918 but they are few and far between – such as coming 16th in a 3 mile race in 1919 in Dulwich village still competing for HHH.
By 1915 Edgar was probably based in Croydon, his son William was born there in 1915 – he had been turning out as a ‘second claim’ for Croydon Harriers before that. In the 1939 Register, he was living with his wife Edith and William at Oval Road in Croydon and working as an ‘Engineer’s Turner’.
Edgar stayed in touch with athletics – he gave his 1912 trophy to the Road Runners Club in the 1950s for their 50 mile track race and presented the trophy in 1953. He watched athletics too including a 50 mile race at Walton upon Thames in 1966 where he was impressed with the American runner Ted Corbitt, often regarded as the ‘father of long distance running’ who was still competing at a good standard at 47.
Edgar died in Bromley in 1972 but his name seems to live on in another trophy, the Edgar Lloyd Memorial Cup, endowed the year after he died, for a 3km junior walk.
- The Sportsman 13 May 1913
- Sporting Life 05 October 1908
- Sporting Life 20 November 1908
- Illustrated Sporting and Dramatic News 17 May 1913
- Sporting Life 15 February 1909
- Athletic News 05 June 1911
- The Sportsman 28 October 1919
- Pall Mall Gazette 12 May 1913
- The Sportsman 13 May 1913
- Athletic News 19 May 1913
- Sheffield Daily Telegraph 13 May 1913
A big thank you to Bob Phillips for making me aware of Edgar.
Census and related information are from Find My Past.