The Grand Memorial is an open handicap race that commemorates club members killed in WWI. It is also Old Members Day and today we were also joined by a number of members of the NZ Army’s 1 NZ Signals Regiment. Here's why:
The Grand Memorial race was started to remember Olympic club members who died in WWI. Over half of the club members left to serve in the war, including two sets of brothers – Frank, Vince & Charles Byrne, and James & Hugh Wilson.
Frank – known to many as Darky – was Olympic’s first Club Captain. One of Wellington’s most well known runners; he won the Wellington Cross Country Champs in 1911, placed second in 1912, and won again in 1913 and 1914. His younger brother Vince was no slacker, beating him in a provincial selection test for the NZ Cross Country Champs in 1911.
All five men enlisted into the Divisional Signals Company. Vince, Charles, and Hugh in 1914, serving in Gallipoli. They were among the first to land and the last to leave. Darky and James enlisted in 1915, joining the others in Egypt just after the allied evacuation from Gallipoli. They all went on to fight in France and Belgium where Darky, Charles and James were killed. Vince was evacuated sick to England, where he died in Hospital less than a month before the war ended.
Hugh was seriously wounded in the same gas attack that killed Charles, and was evacuated to New Zealand shortly before the end of the war – too badly injured to continue serving. On his return, he went in with fellow soldiers from the Divisional Signals Company to raise funds for trophies to remember the three Byrne brothers, and his own brother James.
The 1 NZ Signals Regiment is the descendant of the Divisional Signals Company.
Today's course had a number of changes, including going through the culvert under the new wind turbine access road, and a rock wall to climb on the way out. The requisite eight stream crossings per 2km lap remained. When we arrived the weather was a balmy 16 degrees, though a southerly change at the start of the handicap race saw a 5 deg drop and some drizzle - not that most of the competitors noticed because they were already very wet from the streams.
Numbers in the kids races were very small this year, due to the kids cross country series event on the next day. However we made up for it in the handicap race, with the biggest turn out for a few years.
New member Deb Platts-Fowler was first across the line, with Tracy Berghan second a few seconds back. First of the 8km finishers was Brian Rusbridge. It seems the Army competitors had tough handicaps - the problem of using different races to calculate the handicaps - but they had very respectable running times. Let's hope we'll see them out here again!
Martin McCrudden was the fastest man, and retains the Dad Philp Pewter Pot. Trent was second fastest and Cameron third, a few seconds slower. As well as the overall winner, Deb was fastest woman, with Sarah second and Tracy third. Sarah Hay was fastest junior woman and Liam Wright was fastest junior man.
Thanks to all helpers - course set up crew, the timekeepers, marshalls, photographers and results compilers.