|Born||30 August 1914|
Camberwell, Greater London, Great Britain
|Died||21 December 2006 (aged 92)|
Wareham, Dorset, England
|Height||1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)|
|Weight||56 kg (123 lb)|
|Achievements and titles|
|Personal best(s)||440 yd – 49.3 (1938)|
800 m – 1:48.4 (1938)
1500 m – 3:48.4 (1945)
Mile – 4:04.2 (1945)
5000 m – 14:08.6 (1946)
He set the world mile record of 4:06.4 at London’s Motspur Park on 28 August 1937. This record stood for nearly five years.
Born in Camberwell, London, he was 5 ft 6 in and weighed less than 9 stone (126 lbs). He attended Sutton Valence School, Kent. At 18 he became the first British schoolboy to break 4min 30sec for the mile. He won the British mile title for the five years up to the outbreak of the war in 1939. In 1934 he won the silver medal in the one mile event at the British Empire Games.
At the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin, he suffered an ankle injury and failed to qualify for the 1500 metres final. However, in 1937, after surgery, his performance increased and culminated in his world mile record of 4:06.4 in 1937. In 1938 he set world records in the 800 m and 880 yards with times of 1:48.4 and 1:49.2, respectively.
His poor eyesight ruled him out of active service during the Second World War. He joined the Royal Pioneer Corps and was a firefighter during the Blitz and then later, in the Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers as a radar operator. In 1944, he spent several months in hospital suffering from rheumatic fever and was warned by doctors he might never run again.
Immediately after the war, however, in 1945, he ran his fastest mile, 4:04.2, just behind Arne Andersson of Sweden. In Oslo at the 1946 European Championships, he won the 5,000 m in 14:08.6, the second-fastest time to that point. His versatility was demonstrated when he won the national cross-country title in 1948.
He was the natural choice to carry the Olympic torch into Wembley Stadium for the 1948 Summer Olympics. However he was turned away at the last minute because members of the organising committee wanted a more handsome final runner. They chose the relatively unknown John Mark instead.
He was awarded an MBE in the 2000 Birthday Honours List for services to Blackheath Harriers and athletics.
Wooderson lived in retirement in Dorset in the South of England. He remained a life member of Blackheath Harriers and was twice its president. He died on Thursday 21 December 2006 in a nursing home at Wareham, Dorset. His ashes are interred in the churchyard of Lady St. Mary's Church, Wareham.
In 2018 the first full-length biography of Wooderson was published - 'Sydney Wooderson: A Very British Hero' (Book Guild)- written by Rob Hadgraft, author of previous works on runners Alf Shrubb, Walter George, 'Deerfoot', Jim Peters and Arthur Newton. The Wooderson title runs to 400-plus pages and was highly acclaimed in the sporting press.
- Sydney Wooderson. sports-reference.com
- Sydney Wooderson. trackfield.brinkster.net
- The Times Obituary 22 December 2006 "Though the modest little hero insisted he did not feel snubbed, the late Commander Bill Collins, who organised the 1948 Olympic torch relay, is on record that "such was the then organising committee’s obsession with a handsome final runner to light the Olympic flame that even the then Queen remarked to me ‘Of course we couldn’t have had poor little Sydney . . . "
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Sydney Wooderson.|
- The Times – 23 December 2006.
- Athletics Weekly – By Jason Henderson, 22 December 2006
- Daily Telegraph[dead link] Britain loses its first great miler By Tom Knight 22 December 2006
- Hardloopnieuws Netherlands by Tom Knight, 2006-12-22
- International Association of Athletics Federations – IAAF by Steven Downes, 8 January 2007
- Sports Journalists Association 23 January 2007. Contains a detailed description of his world record breaking run.
- Dorset Echo Death of ‘hero’ runner Sydney By Juliette Astrup, 29 December 2006. Contains a recent photograph of Sydney Wooderson.
- 'Sydney Wooderson - A Very British Hero' (Book Guild, 2018) by Rob Hadgraft. 406 pages, illustrated. ISBN 978-1-912575-35-0.
- Times article When did Sydney Wooderson break the world mile record? Questions & Answers, 27 November 2005
- Biography at the Blackheath Harriers webpage
- Thurlow, David, "Sydney Wooderson – Forgotten Champion", (55 pages) available from Brian A Saxton, 56 Bourne Way, Hayes, Kent, BR2 7EY