In 1924, Eric Liddell, a young athlete who’d recently been a student at Eltham College, ran in the 400metres final at the 1924 Paris Olympics and won gold.  A century later, we are proud to say that some of our  students have marked his extraordinary story in an amazing way. 

Eric Liddell was a student from Scotland who boarded at Eltham College from 1908 to 1920.  During his time at Eltham, he was awarded the Blackheath Cup (for best sportsman) and captained the senior cricket and rugby teams.  He went on to play international rugby for Scotland but he is best remembered for his 1924 Paris Olympics 400m gold medal with his story inspiring the 1981 sporting biopic, Chariots of Fire.  The film recounts how, due to his deep Christian faith, he declined to take part in the 100m final which took place on a Sunday.  By 1925, Liddell sailed to China to become a missionary – which he felt was his true calling.

On Saturday 3rd June 2024, a total of 12 students completed a relay run lasting a full week between Paris and St Andrews in Scotland in honour of Eric Liddell’s achievement and fortitude not only at the 1924 Olympic games but in his life generally. 

The group of Sixth Form students from Eltham College were joined by pupils from St Leonard’s School in Scotland.  Together, they ran nearly 700 miles and so far have raised over £20,000 for charity.

The group of 12 students set off from the British Embassy in Paris, calling in at Eltham College on their way up to Scotland. Bleddyn, one of our students said: “The main thing for us is that although Eric Liddell had many sporting successes, he still stuck to his principles. He turned away from the fame and fortune that he could have had to become a missionary.  We have focused on his values a lot in preparing for this event”. 

James Willatt, Deputy Head, Co-Curricular at Eltham College, said: “We are incredibly proud of our students.  They will remember this run for the rest of their lives.  I don’t think they quite realise what they have achieved.  Their families have been really supportive too.  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.” 

With a distance of almost 700 miles, the mammoth relay took the group nearly seven days to run. The relay was organised so each student ran for approximately 30 minutes before handing on to the next runner in a continuous cycle of running day and night to cover the ground.  Their run ended in Edinburgh with a welcome reception at the French consulate followed by a run along the long sandy beach at St Andrew’s – made famous in the opening sequence of the Chariots of Fire film.  Support vehicles and staff travelled with the group on the route that also included stop-offs at Cambridge, Hull and Newcastle on the way up to Scotland.   

The students from both schools are aiming to raise £24,000 for three charities:  Personal Best Foundationwhich offers schoolchildren from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to enjoy the transformational impact of athletics; Mary’s Meals UKthat provides meals to children in poor countries; and The Eric Liddell Community, an Edinburgh care charity and community hub.  You can help them reach that total here.