Horsham Museum Celebrates World-Beating Runner

By Graham Spicer | 31 October 2005
Shows a sepia photo of a man in suit and tie with a medal around his neck

Alfred Shrubb dominated distance running in the early 20th century. Courtesy Horsham Museum

Dame Kelly Holmes may have won two gold medals in the 2004 Athens Olympics, but these days few have heard of an athlete who, in 1904, broke seven world records during one race.

Alfred Shrubb, a tobacconist from Horsham, West Sussex, dominated long distance running in the early years of the 20th century, and Horsham Museum is opening a permanent display to the man.

Known as the ‘Little Wonder’, Shrubb weighed less than eight and a half stone and was only five feet six inches tall.

On November 5 1904 he raced at Glasgow’s Ibrox Stadium and broke the five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten and eleven mile records during the race. Some of these world records lasted for decades and as British records for up to half a century.

“1900-1910 was his peak but he carried on running until the 20s,” explained Jeremy Knight, Curator and Heritage Officer at the museum.

Shows a photo of a large silver sporting cup trophy in a room with the words Horsham Museum on the wall

Exhibits include Shrubb's trophies, his running shoes and his celebrated training manual. Courtesy Horsham Museum

His success on the track took him around the world: “He was invited to run in America, Canada and Australia because of his fame,” said Jeremy. “Shrubb was known from one end of the world to the other.”

Shrubb eventually emigrated to Canada in 1928 and the display has been donated by his daughter Nora Allen who lives there. Exhibits include his running shoes, his trophies from tournaments in Britain and America and his training manual, which went on to inspire Olympic athletes.

It also shows a photograph from his failed attempt to beat a horse, in a novelty race organised in Horsham.

The exhibition will be unveiled on November 5 2005, 101 years after Shrubb’s remarkable achievement, by Andy Robinson and John Luxford from his old athletics club, Horsham Blue Star Harriers. Andy is the current holder of the Alfred Shrubb Cup, originally donated by Shrubb to the club.

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