The race was first run on Thursday, October 31, 1907. Local Perth Collegiate Institute student and athlete, Ed Code, won in a time of 52 minutes 43 seconds. The race was contested as a Thanksgiving day event. Yes, Thanksgiving was held on Thursday 31 October that year. It continued as a Thanksgiving day event in subsequent years. That first year, the contestants ran an out-and-back 8 mile race. Thereafter, the course was changed to the Glen Tay block, more or less as we know it today. This race, and many others in Canada, were inspired by Canadian Billy Sherring‘s marathon win the previous year at the 1906 Olympic games in Athens, Greece. For more about the first race, read this pre-race article in the Perth Courier newspaper. The Courier’s post-race article is a fun read. Considering their footwear, their heavy cotton running attire, the dirt roads, and the lack of preparation, it was remarkable athletic performance to run a 4 minute per kilometre pace!
“The much-talked-about road race on the morning of Thanksgiving Day, under the auspices of Messrs. Rogers & Nicholl local hardware merchants, was certainly a great success in every respect, and caused intense interest in town and also through the country to Manion. The race was only announced during the previous week but in the meantime many young men trained hard for the big event. “
Excerpt from The Perth Courier, 8 November 1907
Centennial Project Revival
The modern edition of the race was founded in 1967 by Perth educator and coach Tom Graham as a Canadian Centennial year project. It was sponsored by Perth merchants Bill and Jack Wilson with encouragement from sportsmen Rusty White and Peter Code. Other than 1968, it has been run every year since on the last Thursday in August. It is a summer classic that is not to be missed.
Tom revived the race and stayed on as race director from 1967 until his passing in 2013.
1967 Glen Tay Block Race Finishers
(L to R) Back Row: Bill Wilson (sponsor), Ron Wallingford 47:41, Doug Scorrar 49:24, John Park 50:34, John Dextras 53:16, Duncan Rodgerson 54:55, Rusty White (local sportsman).
Middle Row: Larry Lemay, Bill Arnold 55:46, Bill Blair 59:31, John Burke 69:31, Andy Kozak, ?.
Front Row: Paul ?, Joe Mitchell, Peter Code, Tom Clapp.
Clockwise from top left: Peter Code, a competitor in the 1967 race and many more, became the unofficial race historian; Finishers in the 1980s; Tom Graham receives the 2002 Perth Sportsperson of the Year award; Doug Scorrar (#74), a competitor in the 1967 edition and a longtime record holder of the GTBR; Kristine Plant (nee Percival) aged 13, places 1st in under 20 (she is now a member of the GTBR committee!); Perth Collegiate Institute runners pose with their coach.