On a damp December afternoon in 1968 a large contingent of runners (in excess of thirty) gathered outside the PRC, supported by lusty cheers from numerous spectators and sympathizers. The runners sprung into action at the crack of Les Waddell’s starting pistol, and pounded off out of Police HQ towards Flatts Village via Middle Road.
The early leader of the pack was a former member of the Parachute Regiment, Ian Ganson, followed closely by the finest distance runner on the Force, if not the Island, former Royal Marine, Jeff Payne, being shadowed by Jimmy “The Wop” Costello who had previously served with the Cheshire Regiment.
It should be mentioned at this time that Inspector Douglas “Red” Hebberd had a slight lead coming through Flatts - but he was riding a bicycle and was fading badly!
On passing through Flatts the runners headed west along North Shore Road before sweeping up ‘Heartbreak Hill’ and past Bleak House, where a few years later dastardly deeds would be committed against the Commissioner of Police and his family. A little further on the runners faced their last obstacle, a long incline leading up to the barracks - and (thank God) the bar!
Payne had steadily widened the distance over Costello, while Mike Rickards, Gordon Howard, and yours truly, Pat McBride, were running 3,4 and 5, with Ben Swan (our excellent garage mechanic) still within striking distance with half a mile to go.
Now, although this was the inaugural run, it was not the first time that police officers had competed against each other over this course and distance. Indeed, the race in 1969 was a direct off-shoot of a sporting contest held in 1968 which had pitted two ‘formidable’ athletes in a head-to-head physical competition!
The 1968 event came about due to the presence of several ‘sporting types’ having a few Dark and Stormys at the residence of Gordon “The Magpie” Howard, which he was sharing with two other police officers in Paget Parish. As the afternoon progressed and the Dark and Stormys were mixed with additional rum, it became apparent that both the noise level and temperature were rising, and none were noisier and more vocal than the inimitable Alastair “Shakey” Johnson, and I have to admit, Pat “Odd Job” McBride! Both of us were normally quite affable with each other but the hackles were rising rapidly that afternoon.
The cause of this gathering rumpus was the contention by both that our respective branches of the Armed Forces - Johnson having served in the Royal Air Force, and myself in the Royal Marines - were physically superior to the other! There was no let-up. Either blood or sweat would have to be shed and honour upheld over a six mile (10km) course.
“The Magpie” immediately seized the opportunity to use his entrepreneurial skills to HIS advantage, and demanded a stake - one Bermuda pound from each of the contestants, with the winner taking the 2 pound prize money. One week was allotted for training, and the time and date was set.
The race was duly run at the appointed time, and in a ding-dong battle both runners crossed the finish line together – and a draw was declared. The only item missing was the prize money held by “The Magpie”, who was also missing! At an inquiry held later at the Police Recreation Club this wily bird claimed that all prize money had gone to “expenses” - a likely tale!
However, it was decided that due to the sterling efforts of “Shakey” and “Odd Job”, this run should become a part of the annual Police Sporting Calendar as it had already been placed on the Training School syllabus.
Meanwhile the 1969 race had finished and everybody assembled in the PRC bar to exchange stories and receive their prizes. Those finishing in 40 minutes and under received gold medals, those in 45 minutes and under received silver medals, and bronze medals went to all those who managed to finish.
FINAL OFFICIAL RESULT:-
Editors note - Our thanks to Pat McBride for kindly providing this article. While researching it Pat came across his silver medal which he hadn’t seen for 40 odd years. These two men – Shakey and Odd Job were surely two of the real characters of the Bermuda Police Force at that time. If we were to repeat the 1968 duel it would require Pat to fly in from the West Coast of Canada, and Alastair to fly in from the Scottish Highlands! We can still see them handling the Dark and Stormys but the run might be a bit too much for both of them!