Born in Dervock, County Antrim, Northern Ireland, McArthur was recognised as a promising athlete as a teenager, but he didn't pursue an athletics career until after emigrating to South Africa in 1901 at the age of 20.
After joining the Johannesburg Police Force in 1906, McArthur begun to take athletics seriously. Soon he had won the Transvaal half and one mile championships, the five mile track championship and also two national cross country championships. Should be Transvaal and not national because national cross country championships only started in 1948.
McArthur ran his first marathon late in the 1908 season, and surprisingly beat the Olympic silver medalist Charles Hefferon. He also won the national one and ten mile championships.
The Stockholm Olympic marathon took place in sweltering heat. Representing South Africa in the event, McArthur and his teammate Christian Gitsham ran together and soon took the lead. Confident of victory, Gitsham stopped for water, expecting his colleague to join him, as agreed. Instead McArthur ran on, stretching his lead and taking him to certain victory over Gitsham by 58 seconds.
In the next season, McArthur injured his foot in an accident and was forced to retire from athletics. He ran six marathon races (including the Olympic marathon) throughout his career and never lost one. Ken McArthur died in Potchefstroom at the age of 79.
- Ken McArthur at Sports-Reference.com
- Kennedy McArthur at the South African Sport and Arts Hall of Fame