Lillian Board Trophy Senior Women 800m

By Dr Jane Ainsworth

Story of the Event

As with so many track events, the Women’s Amateur Athletic Association championships represented one of very few opportunities for women to achieve internationally-recognised success at distances further than a sprint until 1960. 

Although the 800m was contested at the 1928 Amsterdam Olympics there was no British team. The WAAA boycotted Games in protest at the limited athletics programme available to women. Two athletes who dominated the WAAA championships with five victories apiece, Edith Trickey and Gladys Lunn, might have expected to do well in these Games; Trickey held world best times, while Lunn defeated the 1928 Olympic champion Radke in a match in 1930, amd won the equivalent of the World Championships in the same year.

Gold abstract trophy on a green marble base
Photo credit: Ruth Brennan

The lack of medal opportunities should not hide the achievements of three further British multiple WAAA champions. Diane Leather, coached by one of the most influential women in WAAA history, Dorette Nelson Neal, broke multiple world records and became the first woman to run under 5 minutes for the mile, receiving considerably less attention than Sir Roger Bannister’s 4-minute mile 23 days earlier that same summer. Leather was European silver medallist in 1954 and 1958. Joy Jordan, WAAA champion on five occasions and world record holder in 1960, was particularly unlucky in being placed fourth at the 1962 European Championships but given the same time as athletes in silver and bronze positions.  She made up for this with bronze in the Commonwealth Games. Anne Smith, Commonwealth bronze medallist in 1966, broke three world records in 1967. 

Vera Nikolic of Yugoslavia, won two European titles and set a world record at the WAAA in 1968. One important name does not appear on either of the trophies awarded for 800m – 1964 Olympic champion and world record holder Ann Packer. After winning gold and silver in the 400m in Tokyo and setting a world record, Packer retired from athletics at the age of just 22.

During the period when this trophy was presented, British athletes have continued to achieve notable success over two laps. Christina Boxer, WAAA champion three times, was the first British woman to run under 2 minutes for the distance. Boxer also won 1500m gold at the 1982 Commonwealth Games. Kirsty Wade won her only WAAA title in 1988 but had already won two Commonwealth titles at 800m for Wales, adding the 1500m gold medal in Edinburgh in 1986 for good measure. Her successor as Commonwealth champion, Diane Edwards (later Modahl), won this trophy on four occasions.

The final name to be recorded on the trophy in the 1990s still holds the British record. Kelly Holmes had won Olympic bronze in 2000; on an emotional night in Athens four years later she moved through the field with pinpoint timing to take the first leg of an Olympic middle-distance double that compensated for several injury set-backs in previous years. Made a Dame of the British Empire in 2005, she continues to work on the development of women in sport and acted as mentor to the winner of this trophy in 2017, the World Championship silver medallist, Hannah England.

In Memoriam Lillian Board (1948-1970)
This trophy was presented in memory of the 1969 European Champion, Lillian Board.  At the age of 19, in 1968, Board had won the silver medal in the 400m at the Olympics held in the sizzling temperatures and high altitude of Mexico City. In the following year in a match against France she turned the tables over 400m on Colette Besson, who had taken the gold medal in the Olympics. Later in the year, she took gold in the European Championships in the 800m final in Athens and repeated her defeat of Besson when running anchor leg in the 4 x 400m relay at the same championships. At the start of the following season she ran the mile in a time that placed her second on the all-time British list and was part of the British team that set a world record in the 4 x 800m relay, but her appearance at the 1970 WAAA championships was her final race. She died on Boxing Day, 1970. It was testimony to her popularity with athletes at home and abroad that the organisers of the 1972 Munich Olympic Games named a street after her in the Olympic Village.

History of the Trophy
From 1923-1970, winners of the Women’s Amateur Athletic Association 880 yards or 800m were awarded the Lady Bailey Challenge Cup, now presented to the winners of the 3000m steeplechase. On the tragically early death of Lilian Board money for a new trophy in her memory was raised by public subscription. This trophy was awarded to the WAAA champion in 800m from 1971-1995.  Since 2010 it has been presented to the winner of the England Senior Championships 800m.

Previous Winners

1971 Abigail Hoffman1980 A. Clarkson1989 D. Edwards
1972 M. Tracey1981 A. Clarkson1990 A. Williams
1973 M. Tracey, Eire1982 T. Cater1991 P. Fryer
1974 Y. Saunders, Canada1983 S. Bailey1992 D. Edwards
1975 A. Creamer1984 H. Barralet1993 K. Holmes
1976 A. Creamer1985 C. Boxer1994 (D. Modahl)
1977 C. Boxer1986 D. Edwards1995 (K. Holmes)
1978 C. Boxer1987 D. Edwards 
1979 C. Benning1988 K. Wade 
2010 S. Smith2013 M. Okoro2016 S. McDonald
2011 K. Harewood2014 L. Sharp2017 H. England
2012 J. Walsh2015 S. Smith2018 M. Smith
  2019 K. Fraser