Men’s 7 Miles Walking Challenge Cup

Presented to the Amateur Athletic Club (AAC) by JG Chambers

By Dr Jane Ainsworth

The Story of the Event

Walking lies at the very heart of British athletics. Throughout the nineteenth century, this event drew substantial crowds. Champion of the 1868 Challenge Cup, Walter Rye, would go on to become a popular newspaper columnist. His acerbic commentary of the organisation of athletics, by Chambers and others in the 1870s, necessitated special diplomacy by Sir Montague Shearman when the Amateur Athletics Association (AAA) was inaugurated in 1880. Rye subsequently joined the first General Committee.

The popularity of the sport in Britain was responsible for its inclusion on the Olympic programme in 1908. This saw George Larner, AAA champion in 1904-5 and 1911, taking the first Olympic gold medal for Britain from Ernest Webb, the winner of that year’s AAA championships.

7 Miles Walking Challenge Cup
Photo credit: David Rowan

After the war, Gordon Goodwin, champion in 1924 and 1926, won an Olympic silver medal in Paris. Charles Gunn, who does not feature on AAA roll of honour, had won Olympic bronze four years previously. Swedish athlete John Mikaelsson won two AAA victories in the late 1930s, with two Olympic titles after the war, in London and Helsinki.

British athletes continued to prosper as the Olympic title moved to the roads. Thomas Green, Harold Whitlock, and Don Thompson took half of the available gold medals for the longer distance of 50km between 1932-1960. At 20km, Stan Vickers took two AAA titles and bronze in the Rome Olympics in 1960. He was succeeded by the fourth member of the Tokyo golden quartet in 1964, Ken Matthews, who would eventually win five AAA championships. 

At the same games, Paul Nihill took Olympic silver at the 50km walk, the only Olympic medallist from that discipline to appear on this trophy. He repeated this feat on four occasions, albeit with his initials reversed on the 1969 entry. The event was dominated in the 1970s by Bryan Adams and the 1980s by Ian McCombie, winning 5 titles apiece. The most recent Olympic medallist to win was the champion from 2014, the Australian Dane Bird-Smith, who took 20km bronze in Rio.

The Donor

John Chambers, the architect of modern athletics and more besides

John Chambers, champion walker and donor of this trophy, is responsible for much of athletics as we know it today. In 1866 he arranged the programme of the first Amateur Athletic Club Championships, based on the programme he had used for the competition between the universities of Cambridge and Oxford in 1864 while he was a student. Out went the sack race, throwing the cricket ball, and the distance pole jump and in came the shot putt and hammer, along with 880 yards, his own discipline of the 7 Miles Walk, the pole jump for height and the 4 Miles Run. 

Chambers’ work in codifying the rules of athletics, an achievement he matched for boxing as the author of the Queensberry Rules, is still fundamental to modern championships; accurate measurement of times and distances, the programme of events, the weights and dimensions of shot and hammer competitions, and the height of the high hurdles were all established by Chambers. He was also responsible for the first staging of national cup finals or championships in football, rowing, billiards, boxing, cycling, and wrestling. As well as being a successful coach to the Cambridge Eight in the Varsity Boat Race, he rowed beside Captain Webb as he became the first man to swim the English Channel. Chambers won the 7 Miles Walk at the first Amateur Athletic Club Championship in 1866 and finished second in 1867.

History of the Trophy
AAA champions in the walk received this trophy from 1880 until 1995, following its donation by Chambers to the Amateur Athletic Club for the championships he organised between 1866-1879. The event has been held over a variety of distances at different times throughout its history, although the same trophy has been awarded;

  • 1866-1968: 7 miles
  • 1969-1995: 10km
  • 2010-2014: 5km
  • 2015 – date: 3km

Since 2010 the trophy has been presented to the winner of the England Senior Championships.

Previous Winners*

1866 J.C. Chambers1897 W.J. Sturgess1930 C.W. Hyde1967 M. Tolley
1867 T. H. Farnworth1898 W.J. Sturgess1931 U. Frigerio1968 P.V. Nihill
1868 Walter Rye1899 W.J. Sturgess1932 A.H. G. Pope1969 V.P. Nihill
1869 T. Griffith1900 W.J. Sturgess1933 J. F. Johnson1970 W.M. S. Sutherland
1870 T. Griffith1901 J. Butler1934 J. F. Johnson1971 P.B. Embleton
1871 J. Francis1902 W.J. Sturgess1935 H.A. Hake1972 P.B. Embleton
1872 T.R. Hogg1903 J. Butler1936 V.W. Stone1973 R.G. Mills
1873 W.J. Morgan1904 G.E. Larner1937 J. Mikaelsson1974 P. Marlow
1874 W.J. Morgan1905 G.E. LArner1938 (J. Mikaelsson*)1975 B. Adams
1875 W.J. Morgan1906 F.T. Carter1939 H.G Churcher1976 B. Adams
1876 H. Venn1907 F.E. Thompson1946 L. Hindmar1977 B. Adams
1877 H. Webster1908 E.J. Webb1947 H.G. Churcher1978 B. Adams
1878 H. Venn1909 E.J. Webb1948 H.G. Churcher1979 B. Adams
1879 H. Webster1910 E.J. Webb1949 H.G. Churcher1980 R. Mills
1880 G.P. Beckley1911 G. E. Larner1950 R. Hardy1981 S. Barry
1881 J.W. Raby1912 R. Bridge1951 R. Hardy1982 S. Barry
1882 H. Wyatt1913 R.Bridge/HVL Ross1952 R. Hardy1983 S. Barry
1883 H. Wyatt1914 R. Bridge1953 R. Hardy1984 (I. McCombie)*
1884 W.H. Meek1915 – No Championship1954 G.W. Coleman1985 M. Day
1885 J. Jervis1918 (European War)1955 R. Hardy1986 (I. McCombie)*
1886 Joseph H. Jullie1919 W. Hehir1956 G. W. Coleman1987 (I. McCombie)*
1887 C.W.V. Clarke1920 C.S. Dowson1957 S.F. Vickers1988 (I. McCombie)*
1888 C.W.V. Clarke1921 H.V.L. Ross1958 S.F. Vickers1989 (M. Easton)*
1889. W. WHEELER.1922 G.H. Watts1959 K.J. Matthews1990 (M. Easton)*
1890. H. CURTIS.1923 G.H. Watts1960 K.J. Matthews1991 (I. McCombie)*
1891. H. CURTIS.1924 G.R. Goodwin1961 K.J. Matthews1992 (M. Rush)*
1892. H. CURTIS1925 G.H. Watts1962 C. Williams1993 (M. Bell)*
1893. H. CURTIS.1926 G.R. Goodwin1963 K.J. Matthews1994 (D. Stone)*
1894. H. CURTIS.1927 W.N. Cowley1964 K.J. Matthews1995 (D. Stone)*
1895. W.J. STURGESS.1928 C.W. Hyde1965 P.V. Nihill 
1896 W.J. Sturgess1929 C.W. Hyde1966 P.V. Nihill 
2010 A. Wright2013 A. Wright2016 D. King
20112014 D. Bird-Smith2017 C. Snook
20122015 D. King2018 D. King

*N.B. Names are as recorded on the trophy and are not always as recorded elsewhere.  Names recorded in brackets with an asterisk do not appear on the trophy.