June 2012

The Tely 10 - A Brief History


By Joe Ryan

Newfoundland´s premier road race, the Tely 10, is believed to be the third oldest road race in Canada and one of the oldest in North America.

First run in 1922, The Telegram 10 Mile Road Race (the Tely 10) has become the province´s most popular road race, drawing close to 3000 participants for the July, 2011, race. This ten-mile run from the Octagon Pond in the Town of Paradise on the outskirts of St. John´s to Bannerman Park in the heart of the city is a unique challenge for runners of all abilities. For competitive racers it is the one race they all want to win, thus adding their names to the long list of former champions. For the recreational jogger or walker, completing the course is in itself a victory.

This year, 2012, will mark the 85th running of the annual classic, and with the exception of the Second World War Years, 1940 - 45, this race has been run every year since its inauguration.

The long list of Tely champions started with Jack Bell in 1922. Even back then, the race was "the event worthwhile that our long distance runners are anxious to carry off." The great Ron O´Toole, one of Newfoundland´s finest distance runners, placed second that year, having been greatly annoyed by a horse and a wagon which got between him and Bell on the course.

For the next three years (1923-1925), O´Toole had no cause for annoyance as he finished first each time. The 1924 race was close, however, until the final stages when Billy Linegar, the second-place finisher, was forced to drop back, suffering from "galled feet, owing to poor footware".

In 1926, a new champion emerged as Cliff Stone gained the title and retained it for the next seven years. Stone´s best effort came in 1929 when he recorded a time of 52 minutes, 57:06 seconds, establishing a mark that would stand for 41 years. In that race, it is interesting to note that at no time was Stone called upon to exert himself.

Following Stone´s seven-year reign, another of Newfoundland´s greatest runners ever, the renowned Pat Kelly, took over in 1933 and for the remainder of that decade reigned supreme. Following the Second World War, Kelly returned for victories in 1946 and 1947, years which saw renewed interest in the race.

In 1948, with radio station VOCM broadcasting the race live for the first time, Bern Thistle added his name to the list of champions, followed by Johnny Lafferty of the U.S. Navy at Argentia in 1949. The 1948 contest it may be noted, had to be postponed for a day because of a heavy rain-storm with hurricane winds that swept the island, causing extensive damage in the city.

The 1950´s belonged to another great Newfoundland runner, George Hillier, who won the race seven times from 1950 - 1956. Hillier entered his first Telegram race in 1948, placing sixth. The following year he moved up to fourth, after becoming "the victim of the flying and flailing hooves of one of the horses of the Mounted Police" as he neared the finish line.

In 1950, the year of his first victory, Hillier had another interesting experience while running. Training on the course one night with an alarm clock in his hand to time himself, Hillier "aroused the suspicions of a constable and some questions resulted".

With Hillier absent from the 1957 race, Jim Jackson was crowned champion only to be defeated the following year by a previous winner, Johnny Lafferty. Lafferty was 40 years old at the time, probably the oldest winner of the Tely 10. In that race, onlookers noted that Lafferty ran down the center of the road, glanced frequently at his watch and cut the curves whenever possible. He had made a special trip to St. John´s from the United States to compete in the race.

Following Jackson´s second victory in 1959, veteran George Crane won in 1960. This was Crane´s 14th time running the race. He would go on to run it another four years. In the 1961 contest, Charlie Spurrell waited until the last few hundred yards to take the lead and claim victory.

From 1962 - 1967, Don Coaker was the undisputed winner of The Telegram classic. With few other competitors in his class, Coaker usually led from the start using a free and easy style of running. With Coaker´s retirement from the race in 1968, Ken Rice claimed victory, followed by Joe Ryan in 1969. It may be noted that both the 1968 and 1969 editions of the Tely 10 were held entirely on the newly installed King George V Track.

In 1970, Dan Clarke, a young marine from the Argentia Naval Base, shattered Stone´s 41 year-old record as he raced the course in 50:07. The race that year started at the King George V Track and went up Kenna´s Hill to a point five miles along Logy Bay Road before returning to the track. Clarke returned in 1971 for another impressive victory in 50:35.

Following these outstanding performances, renewed interest began to develop in the race as spectators once more lined the streets to cheer on the runners. Bren Kelly won in 1972 followed by Dave Thomas in 1973 and Mike Green in 1974. In 1975, Ben Dunne was the winner, a few weeks after running the famous Boston Marathon.

Both the 1976 and 1977 races were won by Harold St. Croix, a young runner from St. Mary´s Bay. In 1978, John Hill, one of British Columbia´s top runners, battled fierce heat for his victory in an excellent time of 51:03. Well-known distance runner Art Meaney, still a strong masters contender, won in 1979, to be followed in 1980 by the sensational Paul McCloy.

In his victory that year, McCloy became the first runner to break the 50-minute barrier, shattering the record for the Tely 10 when he crossed the finish line at 49:20.

Geoff Thompson, who had finished second to McCloy in the 1980 contest, added his name to the list of champions when he crossed the finish line first in 1981 in 51:28. The following year, a 19-year old New Brunswick runner, Greg Grondin, had to contend with both high temperatures and a record field to take first place in the 55th race. The young athlete led from the start and raced to the finish line in front of St. Thomas´ Church on Military Road in 50:56. One hundred and thirty-six runners finished that race.

In 1983, Geoff Thompson returned to lead 183 runners to the finish in a light rain which helped cool the competitors. Peter Lewis, who had placed second on two occasions in the previous three years, emerged the victor in 1984, as the numbers increased and 213 runners completed the course.

From 1985 to 1988, record numbers of participants each year continued to enter and complete the historic event. In 1985, McCloy broke his own record in winning the 59th running of the classic in 47:04, a record that may stand for some time. In 1986, in one of the finest contests ever, Dave Whittle sped to a personal best time of 50:56, leading 267 runners across the finish line.

Veteran Harold St. Croix, the 1976 and 1977 champion, returned after an absence of several years for two more victories in 1987 and 1988. In ´87, St. Croix faced cool temperatures, rain and a stiff breeze for his victory, while in 1988, he collapsed shortly after crossing the finish line after an all out effort over the last couple of miles. In 1989, the race went to Peter Lewis but St. Croix returned for his fifth victory in 1990.

The 1991 race also belonged to the popular St. Croix, as he not only claimed his 6th Tely title, but also became only the second competitor in the history of the race to run under 50 minutes. Distance running star, Paul McCloy, recorded two more impressive victories in 1992 and 1993, while in 1994, with hockey mascot, Buddy the Puffin, officially starting the race, Dave Ruggles raced home first in 51:07.

In 1995, as official entries edged closer to the five hundred mark, speedster Ernie Lucas managed to shake off all competitors on the second half of the course to record his first Tely 10 title. Lucas would return to race strongly to a second place finish in 1996 as Paul McCloy recorded his fifth victory, and the number of finishers soared above the 500 mark.

The number of finishers increased again in 1997 as Scott Young ran a smart race to become the new Tely champion. Young would successfully defend his title in 1998, running a time of 54:26 under wet and foggy conditions, and again in 1999 when he led almost 800 competitors to the finish line.

With Young absent from the first Tely race of the new millennium, Trevor O´Brien became the new Tely champion racing home under very hot conditions in a time of 53:06. In 2001, Chris Holden, a 30-year old chiropractor from Mount Pearl, grabbed an early lead and held it to race home first in a superb time of 50:44. O´Brien would return as champion in 2002 and again in 2003. But in 2004, it was once again Holden who broke the tape in a relatively slow time of 52:44

The 2005 Tely 10 witnessed a record number of 1690 participants turn out to make the trek from the Town of Paradise as the race continued to grow in popularity. This year also saw a new champion declared as Colin Fewer raced home the winner on wet and slippery roads.

Fewer would claim his second straight title in 2006 but in order to do so he would have to out-sprint five-time champion, Paul McCloy, just metres from the finish line.

Fewer would claim his third victory in 2007, his fourth in 2008 and his fifth in 2009. In doing so he would join some legendary company, becoming the seventh runner in Tely 10 history to record five or more victories. His time for the 2009 race was 50:41, run under cool and misty weather conditions accompanied by a slight but cool headwind from the east.

The 2009 Tely race would also see the greatest number of finishers ever as 2484 runners made their way over the scenic 10-mile course, the event becoming more popular than ever.

In the 2010 and 2011 treks from the Octagon Pond, it was once again Fewer who led the way, recording his 6th and then his 7th consecutive victory in the event. Only two other Tely 10 champions - Cliff Stone in the late 1920´s and early 1930´s, and George Hillier in the early and mid 1950´s - had recorded seven consecutive victories in this popular race, with the renowned Pat Kelly still holding the record with nine straight wins back in the late 1930´s.

In the 2010 event, Fewer became only the third competitor in the history of the race to run the course in under fifty minutes, recording an impressive time of 49:48 for the 10-mile distance.

Women first started running The Telegram race in 1969 when 16-year old Jackie Kean entered the race to see if she could do it. Kean returned for a second victory in 1970. However, with the exception of a few female runners like Georgina Parsons, Bonnie Reid, Gail Vincent, Cindy French and Colleen Martin, it wasn´t until 10 years later in 1979, that the number of female competitors increased significantly.

Since then, women have turned in many outstanding performances in the Tely 10, perhaps the greatest being Nicola Will´s 1986 victory. In that race, Will finished in a record time of 55:47 for eight place overall, beating many top male runners.

Noeleen Wadden proved to be the top female runner in the early 90´s as she recorded first place finishes in 1990, 1992, and 1993, with only Sue Malone interrupting her winning streak in 1991. A young tri-athlete from Quebec, Isabelle Turcotte, won the 1994 event, while Tracy Pope became the female champion in 1995, starting slowly and increasing her pace later in the race.

In 1996, 44-year old Pam Bulgin surprised everyone, including herself, as she became the oldest runner ever to claim the female championship. In 1997, Susan King, waited until almost the last minute to enter, then raced home first in 64:01. In the 1998 contest, Noeleen Wadden visiting from Ottawa, showed that she had not lost any of her speed and endurance as she won her fourth Tely title.

Marie Decker´s turn to claim the female crown came in 1999 as the superbly fit athlete raced the course in 62 minutes and 43 seconds. Decker tried courageously to defend her title in the 2000 race, only to finish second as Allison Hobeika beat her to the tape by twenty seconds to become the new Tely champion. Hobeika would claim her second victory in 2001 as she led more than 400 females to the finish line.

The 2002 race would see a new female champion crowned as well-known cross-country runner Anne Barrington was first across the finish line, while in the 2003 event, Lisa Harvey, wife of six-time men´s champion, Paul McCloy, would lead all other females to the finish. Barrington would claim her second crown in 2004 as she led all other females to the finish in a superb time of 58:52, the 5th fastest women´s time ever.

In 2005 Caroline McIlroy, newly arrived in the province from Manchester, England, would add her name to the list of female champions. Finishing in a relatively slow winning time of 61:42, McIlroy, new to the 10-mile distance started out extremely fast, struggled in the latter stages, and just managed to hand on for victory.

Lisa Harvey, the 2003 champion, would return to the Tely race in 2006 to post the third fastest women´s time in Tely history, winning by a wide margin in 57:12.

Harvey would successfully defend her title in 2007, 2008 and 2009. The 2008 race, it may be noted, saw more female competitors than male for the first time ever. A record 2,047 runners completed the course that year.

In 2010, a sensational new female runner appeared on the scene as Kate Vaughan-Bazeley raced the course in 56:36, the second fastest female time ever, just forty-nine seconds of Nicola Will´s record of 55:47, set twenty-four years earlier in 1986. Vaughan-Bazeley would claim her second victory in 2011.

In the 2011 event, it may be noted, a record 2868 participants successfully completed the course with 474 more female competitors than males crossing the Bannerman Park finish line.