Twelve students run from Paris to Scotland in memory of former student ​​and Olympian Eric Liddell

Twelve students are running from Paris to Scotland to mark the centenary of former student Eric Liddell’s Gold medal in the 1924 Olympic games.

The group of 16-year-old boys and girls from Eltham College, in Grove Park Road, Mottingham, are honouring Mr Liddell’s story by running a 680 mile relay from Paris to St Andrews, Scotland.

Mr Liddell was a student at Eltham College from 1908 to 1920. During this time he was awarded the Blackheath Cup – best sportsman – and represented the senior cricket and rugby teams by the age of 15, before captaining both.

He was best remembered for his 1924 Paris Olympics 400m gold medal with his story inspiring the 1981 sporting biopic, Chariots of Fire.

Setting off from the British Embassy in Paris on Sunday, the group passed through Eltham School yesterday afternoon before heading through Lewisham and Peckham towards central London to pass through the City of London yesterday evening.

One of the runners, Bleddyn Mottershead, 17, said: “The main thing for us is that Eric Liddell, although he had many successes in his life from winning gold at the 1924 Olympics to playing international rugby for Scotland, still made sure he stuck to his principles. 

The group of 12 students – and a reserve – who are running 680 miles from Paris to Scotland (Picture: Eltham College)

“He turned away from the fame and fortune that he could have had at the peak of his career and returned to China to be a missionary.  

“We had focused on his values a lot in preparing for this event”.

Their journey will now take them to Scotland, where their run will end along the beach made famous in the Chariots of Fire.

With a distance of almost 700 miles, the mammoth relay is estimated to take the group six days. The relay is organised so each student runs for 30 minutes before handing onto the next in a continuous cycle of running day and night to cover the ground by Friday.

Support vehicles are travelling with the group which have food and provisions as well as sleeping quarters.

Throughout the run they will be raising funds for three charities; the Personal Best Foundation which works to make athletics more accessible to schoolchildren from disadvantaged backgrounds, Mary’s Meals UK which provides meals to schoolchildren in some of the world’s poorest countries and Edinburgh based charity and community centre, The Eric Liddell Community.

So far, the fundraiser has racked up £14,731 for the charities with a target of £24,000.

The students information flyer, mapping their route and explaining key facts (Picture: Eltham College)

To prepare for the race, the teenagers trained alongside Robbie Britton, holder of the British 24-hour running record. They also created a short film which includes an exclusive interview with Lord David Puttnam, who directed Chariots of Fire and Murray Watts, the writer and director who created a short film which tells the story of Mr Liddell’s life.

James Willatt, deputy head of Eltham College, said: “We are incredibly proud of the students.  They will remember this run for the rest of their lives.

“I don’t think  they quite realise what they have achieved. 

“As well as the physical challenge, the students have developed soft skills from organising the event, the finances, the logistics and raising funds for the event to enable it to take place.” 

The initiative forms one part of the ‘Eric Liddell 100’ campaign – which The Princess Royal – Princess Anne – is the Patron.

Launched in 2022, the campaign aims to celebrate Mr Liddell through initiatives, events, and activities throughout 2024.

You can follow the group’s progress here and view their social media account here.

Pictured top: The relay team passed through South London yesterday afternoon (Picture: Eltham College)

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