RETRO: THE STAR WALK- Why the year 1966 was about more than just the World Cup for people in Sheffield

Competitors at the corner of Fargate and High Street, Sheffield, in the Star Walk 1 June 1966
Competitors at the corner of Fargate and High Street, Sheffield, in the Star Walk 1 June 1966
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The year 1966 was a record-breaking one for the people of Sheffield.

You may be thinking of 30 July when Sheffield goalkeeper Gordon Banks helped the England football team to their first ever World Cup victory.

The start line of another record year - in 1978, 540 men and 153 women competed

The start line of another record year - in 1978, 540 men and 153 women competed

But there was also a post-war record-breaking number of entries for the famous Star Walk race on Whit Tuesday 31 May.

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Spectators lined the 12-mile route to watch 154 competitors race walk.

Starting outside the Star office on High Street at 10am, the walkers sped out to Wadsley Bridge and Halifax Road, reaching Ecclesfield before turning onto Barnsley Road and finishing in the Owlerton Stadium on Penistone Road.

Star Walk 1983 joint winners, Gary Crossland and Les Morton (left) cross the line together

Star Walk 1983 joint winners, Gary Crossland and Les Morton (left) cross the line together

The winner was 22-year-old Ken Booth of Dyke Vale Road in Hackenthorpe, Sheffield, who finished the race in 1 hour 46 minutes and 21 seconds.

The first Star Walk was held on Whit Tuesday 6 June in 1922 and was only open to people who had not won a prize in a walking competition before. Over the years this meant previous winners of the Star Walk itself were not allowed to return to defend their title.

The event was increasingly popular and at its peak in 1985 there were a total of 1467 entries made up of 662 men, 555 women and 250 juniors.

FREE BEER THREATENED TO LEAD COMPETITORS ASTRAY

The day before the 1966 Star Walk a miniature beer-fuelled alternative was hosted by the Cricket Inn on Cricket Inn Road.

Anyone who decided to compete in both events would be nursing a hangover for the second day.

Two hundred bottles of beer were served to the 50 competitors at four checkpoints along the two-mile route. According to our archives beer drinking was ‘compulsory’.

THE LEGACY

Half a century later the Star Walk has walked its course but Sheffield is still an important marker on the race walking map.

Yorkshire-based Rio Olympics race walker Tom Bosworth thinks Yorkshire is ‘the hub of race walking’, partly because of the stellar coaching available at the City of Sheffield & Dearne Athletics Club.

At the end of August this year Sheffield race walker Ana Garcia won the 5k under-17 race walk in the England Athletics Age Group Championships at Bedford International Stadium.

The Star Walk ended in 2000 after a decade of declining popularity, returning for one year in 2013 to raise money for Sheffield’s Women of Steel.