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Inspiring Canadians - In Sport and Life

Honoured Member

BILL SHERRING

Inducted in 1955

Member Details

Date of Birth: September 10, 1878
Place of Birth: Hamilton, Ontario
Date of Passing: September 6, 1964
Sport: Track Events
Member Category: Athlete

Career Highlights

1899, 1903

First place, Hamilton's Around-the-Bay Road Race

1900

Second place, Boston Marathon

1906

Athens Olympic Games - Gold medal, Marathon (otherwise known as the Athens Games was meant to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the Olympic Games).

 

Honoured Member BILL SHERRING
Inspire

Story

After the 1900 and the 1904 Olympic Games produced middling public response at best, a special Olympiad was held in Athens in 1906 in the hopes that by holding the Games in Greece, the cradle of the Olympic movement, the spirit of the Games would return and a new era of international athletic competition would result. The marathon, the most historic of Olympic races, was a key event at these Games. In 490 B.C., an unknown Greek messenger ran the 26 miles between the plains of Marathon and the city of Athens bearing good news from the battlefield. The 1906 competitors were to run this exact course, and it was largely expected that a local Greek runner would bring good tidings, in the form of a gold medal, to those waiting at the finish line. When the first-place runner entered the stadium for the final lap, however, spectators were shocked to behold not a strapping Greek, but a tiny man wearing a large floppy hat and a giant green shamrock across his shirt. This unusual athlete was Canadian distance runner Billy Sherring, and his shamrock was the emblem of the St. Patrick's Athletic Club of his native Hamilton. Sherring won his first races at Ontario fairs as a teenager. In the late 1800s, the Hamilton Herald put on the annual Around-the-Bay race to fuel the growing interest in distance running, and Sherring was one of its first star competitors. He came in third in 1897 at the age of 20, and was the victor in both 1899 and 1903. In 1901, he won a 20-mile race in Guelph, and in 1900 he came second in the prestigious Boston marathon. As the 1906 Olympics approached, Sherring was unsure as to whether funding would allow whim to attend. Eager to see him represent their country, a number of his friends took up a collection and wagered the entire pot on a horse named Cicely. The horse won at tremendous odds, and Sherring was on his way to the Mediterranean. Once overseas, he paid his additional expenses by working at a Greek railway station while still managing to prepare for the big race ahead of him. The incredible heat on the day of the race was a stumbling block for many of the runners, but Sherring was ahead of the pack by the second hour. When he was sure of his lead, he took a short walking break in order to build up his air storage for the grueling miles ahead of him but resumed once he noted his opponents approaching. As the race progressed, many of the other runners began to drop out, but Sherring ran smartly and steadily, keeping his lead until the end. When he entered the stadium, Prince George of Greece applauded him and even ran the last lap by his side. By the time he crossed the finish line, Sherring is said to have lost 14 pounds from exertion. Sherring was hailed as a hero when he returned to Canada with the gold medal. He ran in a number of professional races before retiring from competition and entering into the employment of the Customs and Excise Department in Hamilton. As a tribute to one of the nation's greatest distance runners, the Around-the-Bay Road Race was renamed the Billy Sherring Memorial Road Race.


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