Matthew Burns

JOHN CAMPBELL BEATS CHARLES SYKES’ 1993 WILSON RUN RECORD

John Campbell (SH) has broken Sedbergh School’s historic 133rd Wilson Run record, beating Charles Sykes’ 1993 record by just under two seconds. Last year’s winner, Campbell, whose brother Archie won in 2014, gave another winning performance on March 15th in perfect conditions. 

18-year-old Campbell (School House), from Horncastle, Lincolnshire, came in with a time of 1.08.02 and triumphed ahead of second-placed Joe Bird (Evans House), from Penrith (1.11.02) and Fergus MacMillan (School House) (1.15.05).

Phoebe Whattoff (Roberston House) who took gold for the girls, came 14th with a time of 1.25.00. She was ahead of last year’s girls’ winner Charlie Neate (Lupton House) (1.32.02) and Isobel Page (Robertson House) (1.37.16). 

In total 167 pupils aged 16 to 18 competed in the school’s historic annual fell race this year, the highest number ever qualified.

Campbell, who is also Head of School, said: “I started to think it was possible I might stand a chance of breaking the record when I came off the fell three minutes quicker than I had last year – I thought there was a chance anyway, when I looked at my watch.  

The noise coming from the crowds on Library Corner was absolutely incredible, really overwhelming. I remembered the crowd went crackers last year but this was even more. I just can’t wait to come back next year and be able to just watch and cheer.”

Headmaster Andrew Fleck said: “John’s relaxed and gentle manner belies extraordinary determination to succeed. This combination, which has made him a popular and successful Head of School, was evident in his record breaking win yesterday.

It was incredibly nerve-wracking as the seconds ticked away. We are utterly delighted to see Sedbergh athletes reach new levels of achievement and so pleased for John.”

Jim Fisher, Race Organiser, said: “It was wonderful to see easily our biggest entry ever to the Wilson. Though sunny, with the ground drying nicely, it was still spongy underfoot, there were strong winds, significant bogs and slippery slopes to contend with.

As numerous stopwatches verified the outcome Campbell’s astonishing achievement rippled down the home straight. Several of the lead runners also achieved times that might have won under different conditions. In 30 yrs this is just the second time I’ve seen the record fall.

Less than a minute separated Pheobe Whatoff’s time from the girls’ previous record.”Joe Bird (E), 17, recently secured 8th place in the National Schools Cross Country Championships and this was his first Wilson Run. He said: “It feels so good – an amazing experience to take part.

It’s one of the toughest things I’ve ever done – you have to be so resilient to make it through the run and I’m so happy to share the experience with Johnny, who’s a good friend – he should be very happy.”

Charles Sykes OS (SH), who works in Financial Services in Cheltenham, broke the record in 1993. He was spectating the race for the first time in five years. He said: “It’s so good to see the record go to such a lovely chap. I’ve met him briefly today and we spoke about our experiences. It’s a very tough run and though I no longer run, it is fantastic to see the crowds and support again.”

Ranald Campbell, Johnny’s father, a former GP in the Kirkby Stephen area, said: “Sedbergh School has produced many fine runners over the years but Johnny Campbell and Joe Bird are two of the very best.  It was a privilege to see them run and witness the fall of the 23-year-old record.

Charles Sykes, whose record was unbroken for so long, was at the run.  For the last year John had set his sights on the record so it was particularly special for them to meet.

Previous record holders, since 1881 when the Wilson Run first began, are: 

Record holders

1883 C P Charlesworth 1.15
1894 W P Hamlyn 1.12.15
1898 W B Grandage 1.12.13.6
1899 C E Pumphrey 1.10.16.6
1993 C Sykes 1.08.41

Watch Johnny Campbell finishing this year’s Wilson Run here

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