Racing Past

The History of Middle and Long Distance Running

Articles / Pre-1940s

Rudolf Harbig

13th February 2011

PROFILE: RUDOLF HARBIG1913-1944   Remembered mainly for his 400 and 800 world records in 1939, Rudolf Harbig was also a great competitor who could produce his best performances on the big occasions. Noted for his strength of character, this German steelwright was an ascetic, abstaining from alcohol and even from tea and coffee. The Second World War denied him even faster times as well as Olympic gold medals. Although he was able to compete until the end of 1942—clearly he was useful to the Nazi propaganda machine—he was unable to match or improve on his pre-war times. Eventually, the double WR holder was sent to the Eastern Front, where he died in 1944 at the age of 30.

Walter George v. William Cummings  One Mile, Lillie Bridge Stadium, August 23, 1886Great Races #1 These two professional runners knew each other well. They had raced each other in 1885 in a series of three races. Cummings had won the 4-mile and 10-mile races; George had won the Mile. This return match over One Mile in 1886 brought out a huge 20,000 crowd. Although Cummings had the faster time, 4:16.2 to 4:18.4, George was a slight favorite--even though his 4:10.2 time trial had not been divulged to the public. This amazing time had been recorded by his manager, an expert timekeeper, Sir John Astley. The time was confirmed by a clever journalist called Charlie Westall, who had witnessed George's run while hiding in a hedge. However, Westall didn’t publish the story.