Amazingly, the Dartmouth Natal Day Road Race is one of the longest running road races in North America! Although there there were a few years during the wars when no race was held, there has been a Natal Day race in Dartmouth since 1907. Our race even shares a small connection with that most famous of all North American races, the Boston Marathon.
In 1907, 17 year old Dartmouth native Chris Wolfe ran the Boston Marathon and finished 23rd out of 102 starters. On his return home he was presented with a silver tankard and congratulations from both the mayor and the city council. Our local boy’s success clearly helped “jump-start” Dartmouth’s enthuiasm for the sport, as it was that same year that the Natal Day committee decided to add a road race to the program.
The race was originally run from Dartmouth to Woodlawn and back into town. The exact course of the inaugaural event is not known, but itÂ likely followed a path similar to the route through Woodlawn that was used in most succeeding years until 1977. The winner of the first Natal Day Race was Leander Lennerton. Not much is known of his life in Dartmouth, but his race results tell us he was quite a runner: the same year he won the Natal Day race Lennerton finished second in the Thanksgiving Day 10 mile race that was run from Bedford to Halifax. Later that year, he travelled to Montreal to run a 15 mile “marathon” and finished thirteenth out of seventy-five runners. He returned home in time to run the Mayor’s Cup six mile race in Dartmouth where he also finished second.
In its second year, the Natal Day race was runÂ on a longer course from Halifax to Dartmouth through Bedford and what is now know as Burnside. Following the crack of the starter’s pistol, spectators rushed to catch the ferry to Dartmouth to cheer on the finishers. That must have been a race in itself! The winner that year was Hans Holmer. Incidentally, he was the same runner that beat Lennerton to win the Mayor’s Cup the year before.
The records of early road races in Dartmouth are spotty, but we do know that from this point until the late 1970s the race was run from downtown Dartmouth to Woodlawn. In 1977 the course was changed to its current form, providing a short but challenging “Tour-de-Downtown Dartmouth.” First, the start was at the Somme Branch Legion Hall. Later years saw it move to the old Town Hall on Ochterloney Street, the fire hall just off Ochterloney, and finally, to its current home at Christ Church Hall.
Do you have a tidbit of Natal Day race history we can add to our page? We have more to come, including the history of race winners, course record holders, and the history of our famous trophies, but if you have something you think we should know please send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.