Wirral's independent local news website
In 1972, the sport of running was not as common or popular as it is today. Whilst you may have seen school kids taking part in a cross-country run as a part of their sports lesson, or a group of runners from a local athletics club on a training run, it was rare to see joggers on the streets.
Fast forward 50 years and joggers are a ubiquitous sight and parkrun at Birkenhead Park regularly sees up to 500 participants take part in a 5k run on Saturday mornings.
But, before parkrun was established at Birkenhead Park, there was the annual 5-mile race that takes place there each July.
Oxton man, Peter Humphreys, established the Birkenhead Park 5-mile event in 1972 when he was Secretary of Wirral Athletic Club.
birkenhead.news spoke to Peter on the 50th anniversary of the first race; “[The 1972 race] was very competitive! It was an all-male field and in the main, mostly aged under 40,” he said
“Compare that with today and it’s really quite different. It’s a bigger demographic and now women also compete, and also a wide age range take part, which I think is great.”
At the inaugural race in 1972, 60 runners took part. The 2022 race, that took place yesterday (Tuesday, 19 July), saw 339 participants cross the finish line.
Today’s participants register through the Wirral AC website, but for the first event, runners had to register using snail mail. Peter explained, “In 1972, there was no email, no internet, so entries were by post, responding to an advertisement in Athletics Weekly.
“People registered by sending letters by post, including a cheque or a postal order. Nowadays, of course, it’s really quite different.”
Technology has also helped in other areas. In 1972, runners’ times were measured using stopwatches and the times were handwritten to record them at the finishing line. “In those days, you had timekeepers and they would stand on the finish line and just click every time somebody goes past,” Peter said.
Peter added, “I would like to thank the organisers for inviting me to participate in the proceedings by presenting the prize to Emily Kearney for her new course record time.”
Concluding, Peter said, “I never imagined for one moment that the Birkenhead Park 5-mile run would still be in existence 50 years on! Even less, at the age of 81, I didn’t have any great expectation that I might be around to witness it.”
Why not follow birkenhead.news on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter? You can also send story ideas to email@example.com