The classic Roubaix 28 hours began in 1954 - the brainchild of local walker Louis Bourgois.
Over the years it has gone through many changes - from the original organisational committee: l’Academie des Sports de Roubaix to the present day Club des Marcheurs Roubaisiens.
The course itself has also undergone many changes. Starting in the Rue d’epaule quarter, the race has a history of a large first lap to contiinue on a shorter lap. Originally only 11 km, the course grew to a grand first lap of 42km encompassing the surrounding areas - touching the Belgian border. The subsequent route has travelled down many local streets - often changing from year to year as well as the distance itself.
Why 28 hours? The official 50th anniversary booklet says the race is 28 hours (as opposed to the usual 24 hours or 200km) as the start and finish was in the same street as the local cinema . The finish was timed to fit in between performances - thus capitalising on the maximum number of townsfolk out and about in the Rue d’epaule!
Apart from the first edition, Roubaix 28H has always been held in September - and with only a few exceptions - always the third weekend. This helps in the calendar for setting the qualifying races for the prestigious Paris - Colmar race.
Centurion John (Paddy) Dowling led the British walkers invasion in 1971 and was joined two years later by Colin Young. Other Centurions in the 1970s were Jim Hurley, Dave Boxall and Derek Harrison.
The number of athletes participatng also fluctuated from 20 to 101 in 1980.
The first female was Dutch walker Adrie Dirven in 1978, quickly followed in 1980 by Annie van der Meer. In 1981, Ann Sayer entered and positioned 6th overall (2nd lady) with 217km.
The next few years saw the number of UK walkers increase as did the number of female participants including Sandra Brown in 1984. In 1986, eleven UK walkers took to the start line with Ed Shillabeer placing 3rd with 239km 890m. The number of UK walkers slowly increased - along with the support crew. In 1990, amongst the 15 UK walkers, Sandra Brown was the first lady with Kathy Crilley placed 3rd.
In 1995 there were 23 UK walkers and the number of other countries taking part rose to 14. Truly an international event.
Throughout the 2000s, numbers dwindled as they did in many race walking events - no matter the distance or the location. The French were quick to “diversify” and soon Roubaix introduced the 24 hour relay alongside the 28 hour individual race.
Whilst Roubaix stalwarts Ken and Bob Watts continued with 28 hours, others went for the relay and for the last few years at least 2 British teams have taken part each year.
2012 saw a number of athletes from the Isle of Man take part with top placings of 2nd, 3rd 5th completey astounding the French with their strong walking. A sight to behold!
2013 was the actual 60th anniverary of the race due to the 1964 edition being reduced to a 22 hour race - apparantly due to some irregularites of the course so the start was postponed until 19:00.
2016 was the first 28 hour race for many years where there were no British race walkers taking part. However, there were two 24 hour relay teams which included Centurions Chris Flint, Martin Fisher, David Jones and Kathy Crilley.
See the results page for reports, photos and placings.
Kathy Crilley C.933