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Athletes all set to go to their marks for the 146th running of the famous New Year 'Powderhall' Sprint.

writes Shane Fenton.

Uninterrupted by war or weather the handicap race has taken place on or around New Years Day every year since it was first won by Jedburgh's Dan Wight in 1870.
Throughout the years the race has had a few different venues but no matter where it is run, it is always referred to as the 'Powderhall'.

The race took place at the Powderhall Stadium in Edinburgh up until 1957 with the exception of 1953 when it was held at Old Meadowbank. From 1958 until 1964 venues at Hawick, Tranent and Newtongrange hosted the event before it returned to Powderhall for a further six years culminating in 1970 with Scotland's greatest ever sprinter George McNeil winning the Centenary running of the race.

The following year Meadowbank Stadium in Edinburgh with it's then novel 'Tartan Track' surface played host to the race and that's where it stayed until 1999 when it moved to it's current home at Musselburgh Racecourse.

The race has a unique history, only five men have been dual winners with only two retaining the title, there have been a father and son winner and brothers have also won the race, there has also been one 'dead heat'.

First winner Dan Wight[1870] dead-heated with Robert Kilgour, Edinburgh in [1876], Kilgour went on to retain the title in [1877].
The next dual winner did so by winning in two different century's, with Dave Roberts, Leith triumphing in [1889] and [1901].

There was 13 years between J. Riach of Ratho first winning in [1910] and doing so again in [1923].
The last back to back winner was Willie McFarlane of Glasgow, reckoned to be the greatest Scottish runner of his day, McFarlane won in [1933] and [1934].

The 70's and 80's brought the only father and son winners with Brian Mulgrew, Edinburgh [1986] succeeding his father Pat who was victorious in [1974].

Woodford Green AC duo Josephus and Joselyn Thomas are to date the only brothers to win the race with Josephus the victor in [1996] and Joselyn in [1998] with the latter race taking place in a blizzard where the runners at the start couldn't see the finish line.

The only outcome we haven't had is a female winner, Gemma Nicol, Fiona Cleat and Karen Steed/Cochrane have all come close, will this be the year history is made.

Yes the New Year 'Powderhall' Sprint can certainly lay claim to being Scotland's most famous annual athletics event.

The 12 heats of the race which carries a top prize of £4000 takes place on December 31st, with the 12 heat winners along with the 8 losers going forward to contest the four cross-ties and ultimately the final on New Years Day which will be run in conjunction with a National Hunt race meeting which guarantees a big crowd and a great atmosphere for the runners. Channel4 racing is expected to cover the final of the race. At this stage the forecast looks fairly good for both days of the meeting with temperatures expected to rise to around 8 degrees.


For full details about the meeting go to the New Year Sprint website which has now been updated to include event winners for every meeting since 1870 as well as a roll of honour for all the supporting events.


Published: 2014-12-27 20:57:16