King set the pace for historical race
It started with a dare and has turned into an annual event. Reporter Rexine Hawes looks behind the Tower Run.
The Tower Run started with three blokes who after an afternoon of drinks at the Matamata Club, decided to race one another to be ‘‘King of the the Tower’’.
In 1977, friends and well known businessmen Tony Richards and Brian Black, known as the Terriers, and Colin Thompson, nicknamed ‘‘King’’ had a score to settle.
Richards and Black wanted to prove they could out-run Thompson, well known as the Tower King, as he would run to the Firth Tower, on Tower Rd, and back home every day.
This year marks the Tower Run’s 40th birthday. Richards spoke with the Chronicle to explain how the Tower Run started.
‘‘We used to drink at the Matamata Club and one afternoon we had a few too many spritely ales, thirsty Thursday we called it, and we started having each other on. We decided we would have a race at Christmas time.’’
According to Matamata Dis- trict Chronicle archives from December 1977, the Terriers and King were well known for placing public notices in the classifieds in the lead up to their race.
The Terriers challenged the King with ‘‘Tower Thompson appears to be tripling his training’’ to which the King replied ‘‘The King is still in power, there is no way Black will beat him back’’.
Matamata District Chronicle editor Harry Baker ran a photo of Black and Richards from behind (pictured), taunting Colin: ‘‘this will be Thompson’s view of us’’.
The trio could never have anticipated the phenomenal public interest their challenge created.
‘‘The banter in the Chronicle just went boom,’’ said Richards. ‘‘Everyone turned up. Oh hell, there would have been 3000 people, the whole town was lined up both sides of the street to watch us.
‘‘We thought this would just be a fun day out for the boys, to the tower and back, but no, there were thousands there.’’
King would not be de-throned and crossed the line in first place in 28m, 7.8s after what the Chronicle described as ‘‘a gruelling relentless run in which he hardly changed his pace’’.
Richards was able to pace the King to the Tower and back to the Travel Lodge, where the latter pulled away. He crossed the line at 28m 34s. Black finished the race in 31m 45s, but was soon taken to hospital by ambulance in what the Chronicle described as a ‘‘distressed state’’.
Post race, the Terriers decided to continue the banter, with Richards providing the paper with one final poem for publication.