Ron Bentleys' 24 Hour Record (Ted Corbett Biography Extract)

Corbett and Bentley 24 Hour Run

It is lucky that Ted isn’t superstitious. The air trip to England could have been taken as an omen. He left the US four days before the race. But British airports were completely fogged over. So the plane landed in Frankfurt, Germany. He spent 36 hours there before the English conditions improved. During this long trip he avoided thinking of what lay ahead.

Corbett and Bentley 24 Hour Run

It is lucky that Ted isn’t superstitious. The air trip to England could have been taken as an omen. He left the US four days before the race. But British airports were completely fogged over. So the plane landed in Frankfurt, Germany. He spent 36 hours there before the English conditions improved. During this long trip he avoided thinking of what lay ahead.

Stoneleigh, Don Turner’s hometown, was 20 minutes from the site: the Walton-on-Thames track. Ted spent the final days there.

The 24 hour run was Turner’s brainchild. He had “lobbied” with the British RRC to make it a reality. As its sponsor he felt obligated to run it. As zero hour approached he had nightmares. He openly admitted his terror. Yet Ted felt that Don’s long background made him the favourite to win it.

The Walton-on-Thames 24 hour run was scheduled for 6pm. Ted awoke at 6am but rested in bed for hours. Outwardly he was calm, but inside he was in turmoil.

This awkward starting meant that most of the competitors would be awake for most of the day even before their night and day of suffering. This was added burden. The stadium was in use all day by a soccer team. It was free only after 5pm.

Four hours before the start, as Corbitt and Turner finished their “last meal”, they were joined by yours truly, John Chodes. I had come especially to act as Ted’s handler. A fellow Pioneer member, I had had the good fortune to run a number of marathons with Ted.

The fear was evident in the Turner household. Even Turner’s mother, who had witnessed many of his ultra-marathons, was quite apprehensive about her son’s well-being.

4pm John Smith, the two-time winner at London to Brighton, came by to drive the men to the track.

During the 20 minute drive to the track, in the chilly English twilight, Turner and Smith talked nonchalantly as if headed for a practice run. Corbitt withdrew into his pre-race solitude. As inspiration for the unknown journey ahead, he read a poem his son Gary had written for him.

5pm Turner and Corbitt dressed for the battle. Ted outlined an hour-by-hour schedule for refreshments. The basic foundation was Gookinaid, to be administered at 15 minute intervals. This drink replaced calcium and magnesium, the absence of which causes severe muscle cramps. After the first four hours, solid nourishment. In a marathon or a 50 only fluids are necessary. The first time Ted ate solids was in the 100. But that was nothing but candy bars. The 24 hours, however, was a different breed of cat. In this time span an adult would normally consume three meals of 3,000 to 4,800 calories.

Replacing this necessary nourishment was a puzzling challenge. There were so few precedents. In 1932 Arthur Newton ran 152 miles in an indoor eight-laps-to-a –mile track. During the first 14.5 hours (100 miles) he drank only fluids. Then he sat down to a meal of meat, potatoes and pie! In the remaining nine hours he relied entirely on fluids again.

Wally Hayward ate dozens of eggs, one by one, as he ran along. He took no single meal break. Ted had his own approach. Beginning at the fourth hours, and at two-hour intervals, I would crush two hard-boiled eggs into a cup of orange juice. This semi-liquid concoction could be swallowed without Ted having to stop.

Also, there would be intermittent “treats”. Occasional chocolate bars, orange and pineapple slices, and blackberry juice.

Ted planned a deliberate quarter-mile walk at 100 miles while eating a can of sardines. All these foods and fluids were easily assimilated and gave energy over the long haul.

Each man’s handlers developed unique refreshment schedules. We set up tents along the back straight until the track resembled an army bivouac area. Each tent contained a bed (in case a runner was so exhausted that he needed a complete rest) and a portable stove for brewing tea and actual hot meals a la Arthur Newton.

In front of the tents were littered bottles and cans filled with home-made food and drink preparations. There was also a medical tent. All the runners were required to urinate there. Partially to test the drugs and partially to monitor toxic acid levels as exhaustion increased. (Amazingly, toxicity did not build up progressively. It fluctuated greatly, highest during the 16 normal “waking hours” and lowest during the normal “sleeping hours”).

The timers’ tent dominated the front straight. It was large, accommodating 15 timers. One for each competitor. They recorded every lap during the entire 24 hours. This tent glowed yellow-green under the harsh lights of several Coleman lanterns.

The 15 competitors crowded together in the small community dressing room. In contrast to the all-pervasive gloom at the start of the track 59’s 100’s, today the men joked, laughed and were totally relaxed. Ted couldn’t comprehend this in the face of what was to come. Then he realised that this event was so formless, so beyond understanding, there was nothing solid to fear.

Giggling in a corner sat Joe Keating. It scarcely seemed possible this skinny, bespectacled, babyfaced, 24 year old had worn London to Brighton in an incredible 5:ll and also eclipsed the 40 mile world track record with a 3:49. He was the overwhelming favourite.

There were others who could pull an upset. Ron Bentley’s squat, powerful torso and arms, his bull neck, his battered features and handle bar moustache, gave him the look of a bare-knuckle boxer.

Bentley sat in the middle of the dressing room, dominating the atmosphere with his jokes and rough humour. In 1969 he dropped out of the track 100. In 1971 he won the Radox 100 in 12:37, cruising John Tarrant while coming within six minutes of The Ghost's record. He had also run 5:38 at London to Brighton and recently had won the Exeter to Plymouth 44 miler.

Ron’s brother, Gordon, was also a starter. This was heroic since he was nursing a bad leg. It was Gordon who set the pace for the first 30 in the track 100 in 1969. He finished fourth, an hour behind Ted.

Of course there was Turner. He had the training and the experience to win. But he sat in the corner and looked numb with fear.

Another possibility was Derek Funnell. He was in his mid-40‘s. His short, almost delicate frame, his pinched, peevish face, greying hair and soft eyes, all gave the impression of a timid bank clerk. Yet Arthur Newton had given the same appearance. Funnell was no timid soul. He was a rugged competitor, with ten London to Brighton runs and the Radox 100 behind him.

One man’s presence was keenly felt because he wasn’t there: John Tarrant. He had been training hard when tragedy struck. Unknown then to the other competitors, he was about to have most of his stomach removed. Cancer.

At 5.50pm the runners were called to the track. Corbitt trotted along and nervously giggled, “How are you supposed to warm up for a 24 hour run?

The weather was perfect. Cool and wet. It was silent except for the hissing Coleman lanterns in the timers’ tent. “Go!” They began their nightmare fantasy journey.

Gordon Bentley, nursing his bad foot, bolted into the lead at a marathon pace. Brother Ron and Joe Keating cruised right behind, chatting and laughing. Gordon’s first mile: 6:15. Two miles: 12:55, 5 miles: 33:01. 10 miles: 1:08. This was a killing pace, considerably faster than the 100.

Ted was off leisurely. He pattered along near the end of the pack. His first mile was 7:50. Ted was not the least surprised at the fast pace. He anticipated that either Keating or the Bentleys might try to eclipse the 100 world record en route, just as Hayward had in 1953.

At their phenomenal pace, the three leaders would surpass 200 miles. If they could keep it up.

It seemed it would take many hours before attrition and exhaustion would develop. No. Within fifty minutes the first occurred. Joe Keating stopped dead. There was a gasp from spectators. Had he pulled a muscle? His admirers rant to him but he waved them off and walked briskly for half a mile. The Bentleys pulled 1.5 miles ahead. Then Keating began running again. Nothing was wrong with him.

His strategy was intelligent for a runner who could not run slowly. Keating knew he could never “fly” the whole 24 hours. Even with this walk-run approach he calculated he could reach 170 miles.

Gordon Bentley ran 8.75 miles the first hour. Ron, 9. Keating, despite his stop, 7.75. Ted 7.5.

For Ted, the first hour passed without incident. Running came easily. At this stage, there was much jockeying for position and much talking. There was a constant stream of “good lucks” and other well-wishing. It was a mixture of comradeship and superstition. For every “good luck”, a man said, perhaps some would rub off on him.

Second hour: 23 hours remained. Suddenly, the true magnitude of what lay ahead, settled into each runner’s consciousness. For here, this early, the race began. Fatigue appeared. Derek Funnell told his second that his legs felt heavy.

Mike Case (who had run 75 miles of the 1969 100) began limping. He suffered stomach cramps. At their pace, these men should have been able to run six hours without much fatigue. Yet distress was already evident.

For Ted, the second hour was perhaps the most bizarre in his entire career. His pace increased remarkably. He exploded with nine miles in the second hour. It was effortless. It seemed like jogging. It was euphoria; there was a marvellous free-flowing feeling. Everything came easy. This was combined with a warm feeling of well-being. He said to himself, “Every runner should have this feeling once during his career.”

The scoreboard showed Ted had run 16.5 miles for the first two hours. He was amazed. He had no idea he was moving so fast. He had flowed into second place. Gordon Bentley showed 16.5. Ron Bentley, 16.5 Keating, again walking, after a 50 minute run, 16.75.

Third hour: There was a steady letdown from the euphoria of the second hour. Ted only covered 6.5 miles. As the euphoria wore off, a new sensation crept into his body: pain. A dull soreness crept into his thighs. Several other men also came down. The ordeal had scarcely got underway and already difficulties were being experienced. Funnell, Casse and Par Ferguson made rest stops.

The race was tight. Ted dropped from second to eighth with 23 miles. Gordon Bentley covered 24.75 miles, still leading the caravan, but started to show signs of wear. His bad leg began giving way. Brother Ron closed in with 24.25 miles.

Fourth hour: It grew colder. Mist drifted in from the Thames. Pat Ferguson, running eighth, stopped repeatedly to vomit. He was pale and shaky. He seemed ready to quit. Mike Casse hobbled along, hoping his bad leg would revive. His wife trotted alongside to keep him going. It was futile.

According to the schedule this was Corbitt’s first “meal” break. A hard-boiled egg and a slice of pineapple were crushed into a cup of orange. Ted gulped it on the run. As he did he cried out. “My heel is blistering!”

Blisters meant disaster with 20 hours remaining. I located the urine-test physician. On the next lap Ted was “flagged into the pits”. He lay down in the medical tent and the doctor fixed adhesive tape to the irritated area. Within two minutes Ted was back on track. The patch was a success. Eventually his shoes wore through his socks, but the patch held.

For the third hour the dull awareness in his thighs slowly changed to a painful stiffening. There were moments when it restricted Ted’s stride. To counter this he experimented with Percy Cerutty’s “pinch-on” finger exercise. Ted clenched his fists, digging his thumb into his index finger. This improved his co-ordination and reduced the pain in his thighs. It was amazing that such a simple exercise could seem to correct so many difficulties.

During the fourth hour, Ron Bentley took over the lead from his faltering brother. Soon he was a mile ahead, reaching 32.5 miles. Ted was still seventh with 30.5. Keating proved the intelligence of this walk-run strategy. Despite four-five-minute breaks, he still ranked fourth at 30.75 miles, just ahead of Don Turner. Derek Funnell laboured in 11th place and looked pained.

Fifth hour: Don Turner sat in front of his tent, pulled on his robe and quite the race. He was exhausted. He said he couldn’t face another lap, much less another hour.

It was obvious that anxiety, not physical exhaustion, brought Don down. He was certainly fit. Yet, from the first lap, it was evident something was wrong. Don’s hunched up shoulders and restricted stride reminded Ted of the 60 year old joggers he had seen in road races.

But Ted had seen Turner finish second at London to Brighton. There he’s looked like a great athlete, with limitless power. This hunched stride was fear.

Turner tried to take his shoes off, but his handlers finally persuaded him to carry on for 20 minutes more, until the end of the hour, then he could quit.

In this hour Corbitt crept up on the leaders. But the thigh pain steadily built up. This eroded his confidence. Now he felt the pain was not a passing fancy. Something was wrong that would get much worse before it would get better.

Ted was fifth with 38 miles. Ron Bentley led with 40.5. Gordon Bentley, limping badly, trotted along sixth at 37.75 miles.

Sixth hour: Turner ran his 20 minutes, then quit. More exhortations from his handlers. After more tortured indecision, the thoroughly dispirited Turner returned to the track again for another half hour of “60 year old” running.

The horrible realisation that 18 hours remained suddenly hit Joe Keating. He stopped. At first it looked like just another walk break. But this time he didn’t resume. His many friends swarmed onto the track. He, like Turner, was completely demoralised. It wasn’t the physical strain. He had run much further much faster. It was the weight of 24 hours. He seemed disoriented. His eyes were red and swollen as if he had been crying.

His handlers refused to accept his excuse of being exhausted. They forced him back out. By the time Keating was able to move at a pained trot, Ron Bentley added several more miles to his lead. He now moved with a more powerful rhythm.

Midnight: The character of the race, and the world, changed. All the spectators had gone. It became ghostly quiet. There was no sound to the runner’s footsteps, as a misty fog settled in over the track.

Ted had his second hard-boiled egg. He moved into fourth place. He now became involved in a terrific battle with Gordon Bentley, Derek Funnell and Bill Carr for third. These four were only separated by half a mile.

Seventh hour: Keating recovered from his “bad patch” and matched strides with Bentley although separated by five miles.

Bentley passed 50 miles in 6:8:11. Amazingly fast. But in 1953 Wally Hayward passed this point even faster.

Funnell spurted and rushed past Corbitt to reach 50 first, 6:47 to 6:48. Ted hoped to reach 50 in seven hours. He was ahead of schedule but worried. His fears were coming true. His thighs were not better.

In 1969, in the 100, at 50 miles Ted wasn’t tired yet. Now, at 50, he was in pain and slowing.

The first man quit. Berry, who had been as high as third, pulled up lame.

Eighth hour: They entered the first real crisis zone. It affected everyone. First Keating cracked. He looked terrible. His head hung. His legs hardly functioned. He desperately wanted to stop the agony but all his friends came to watch him win. He felt obligated not to disappoint them. He struggled and staggered on.

Then it was Funnell’s turn. He had moved from 11th, past Ted, into third when he suddenly confronted this mysterious, frightening “crisis zone”. Funnel’s style had been clipped and effortless. Suddenly he declined into a jerky, heavy-footed slog. Ted watched him disintegrate, believing he was through. But Funnell would not give up. With great spirit he fought back.

Everyone except Bentley went to pieces in the crisis zone. As a percentage of the total time of the run, the battles against fatigue began earlier than in the 50 or 100. Terror brought on these crises.

At the end of eight hours, Ron Bentley, 64 miles. Keating, 59. Funnell, 58.5. Corbitt, 58.

Ninth hour: Deep into the crisis zone. It presented itself either in physical collapse of hallucinatory wild running. Funnell, Turner and several others were collapsing. Funnell could barely hobble. His handler went with him round the track, feeding him pudding, to prevent him from sitting down on the cinders.

Turner, after apparently overcoming his fears, once again sat down. “This time its final. I’m not going out again”. He crawled into his tent and immediately passed into a deep sleep for an hour. When he awoke he seemed rejuvenated. The fear left him. He began running. Now he moved like an athlete, not like an old man. But his long rest had left him far behind.

Ron Bentley threaded his way through the traffic jam, of walking, limping, dog-trotting men.

For Pete Hart, one of the tail end runners, deep fatigue took on a weird form. He suddenly exploded into six minute per mile running for half an hour. His face was a blank. It was no effort. He wasn’t aware he was moving faster than his previous eight-minute miles.

Hart’s legs moved without his knowledge. He jumped from tenth to fourth. When he came down it was with a resounding crash. He became a tottering shell.

Just as exhaustion is contagious, so was this hallucinatory burst. Keating caught it. Just when he seemed completely washed up, he hurtled after Hart. He also did not seem to realise he was running. He burned out in 45 minutes.

Ted was astonished at the way they came back from the dead. This threw him into a deep depression. Everyone was recovering. He was steadily declining into ever deeper fatigue.

Tenth hour: There had been pain before, but now the real torture began. Ted still moved up. He was now third. He knew he was in big trouble. It was not tremendously difficult to run. Two-thirds of his thighs were agonisingly sore.

He wasn’t alone in his suffering. Pete Hart’s electrifying burst exhausted him. He refused to just trudge along. He resorted to race walking to build up mileage until he recovered his strength. Hart was small and frail looking. His thick beard hid his pained features. It also hid his fanatical determination.

Then Gavin Riley went berserk. He’d trotted in the background for hours. Like a supernova, he flamed brightly for an hour, then faded to a burned out cinder. In the end he couldn’t move faster than a one mile an hour shuffle. He tried for hours to fight his way back into running. No luck. After 13 hours and 81 miles, he stopped.

Eleventh hour: While every other man showed he was a mere human being, Ron Bentley seemed to be a machine. In the 11th hour he stopped, not because of fatigue, but to eat, which was accomplished in 200 yards. He was totally in command. Although Ted moved into second place, with 76 miles, nine miles separate him from Bentley.

They now entered the “Great Barrier”. Supposedly the most discouraging and exhausting stage of the race was between 85 and 100 miles. Ted’s experience in the Great Barrier proved it. It was an eternity reaching 90 miles. The next ten were worse.

Like a rapidly advancing disease, there was an ever increasing pressure in his thighs. He slowed. It continued unabated.

In the background was the hidden exhaustion of not having slept. So Ted came off the track and instructed me to administer “Pae-Roe”, a Judo “revival” massage. My thumbs bored into the middle of the skull (the occipital protuberance). This supposedly generates strength. In Ted’s overpowering fatigue, it was difficult to detect any real improvement. 13 hours remained! Ted groaned and reluctantly re-entered the world of pain.

Twelfth hour: Halfway. It was 6am and pitch-black. The fun was just beginning. The fog was lifting. Soon it would be dawn. The runners with endless time to contemplate the tortures the next hours would bring, realised they had to run all through the day and into the night before they could leave their hell.

Between the tenth and 12th hours, Keating and Turner were like roller coasters, fast running, wobbling running, walking, trotting, more walking. Now both made spectacular comebacks. Their will to fight on was amazing.

It was also amazing that Gordon Bentley was still on the track. His bad leg was heavily taped. He now limped along, 18 miles behind his brother. To keep alert, he joked and chatted with the handlers. He was filled with gas. His colossal belches, like foghorns, reverberated around the stadium, provoking a chorus of “God bless you’s”. His humour relieved the tension.

In the first hours the rival handlers felt as competitive as the runners. They refused to share information, much less refreshment. This changed dramatically after seven hours, once the runners descended into the quagmire of fatigue and disability. Then friendship replaced rivalry. One handler would massage a rival’s cramped leg. Another would give a previous “secret” drink to a disabled opponent. All the handlers encouraged any man to prevent him from quitting. After the eighth hour victory and defeat lost their meaning. Survival was all anyone understood.

At halfway, Bentley covered 92 miles. Corbitt was second, 81 miles. Keating, 79.5. Hart, 78. Funnell, again in deep despair, 72 miles. Turner, trying to fight his way back, 69.5 miles.

Brian Kemp was 25. He looked 16. He was next to last. Every three hours he had a regular sit-down meal of shepherd’s pie cooked on his portable stove. He ate in style, on a camp chair, covered with blankets and a bib! He complained that his mother was a better cook. But he ate it nonetheless.

Thirteenth hour: According to tradition, this was the crucial hour. Hayward, in 1953, passed 100 miles in the almost unbelievable world record time of 12:46. He planned a ten-minute rest but was so fatigued it lasted 30 minutes. This prolonged rest merely stiffened him. When he started back he could hardly walk. After a long struggle he finally ran, but it was heavy and awkward. He suffered that way for the next 11 hours.

Arthur Newton also stopped for a meal at 100 miles. So everyone watched Bentley’s reaction to this great psychological barrier. Serenely he cruised through in 13:08. He did not stop. Now for the first time Bentley was ahead of Hayward’s record pace. Corbitt, cleanly second, was now 12 miles behind Bentley.

Keating still clung to third place. Now he was down again. He was disoriented, but he no longer complained. He staggered on mutely. As Ted ran by, one of Keating’s handlers yelled, “Stay with Ted”. Keating tried for all he was worth. Ted turned to Joe and said, “Who is he kidding? I should try and stay with you. When you run you fly”. This was true. But Keating was running less and less. In one lap he stopped again. He couldn’t stand it any more. He went into the dressing room and slept for two hours. Then he came back to the track. Unlike Turner, the rest did not help. He had long since lost the point why he was torturing himself.

Fourteenth hour: Eight in the morning. A typical English November day. Grey, cold, damp. Now came Ted’s first planned stop: a 440 walk to eat a can of sardines. While eating them, Ron Bentley stopped just behind for a short tea break. He came alongside Ted and offered him some. “Here,” Bentley said, “Enjoy your breakfast.”

This was the first time Bentley had spoken. With the morning light and past 100 and still in good shape, he became more effusive. Now he encouraged his opponents.

Ted hoped to reach 100 in 14.5 hours, but only made 95 miles. More than being behind schedule he was dead on his feet. I had seen Corbitt in many ultra marathons, and had never worried about Ted finishing. Today was different. In the tenth hour Ted said, “Oh boy!” to himself while taking water, as an indication of the ordeal. Never had I heard Ted complain out loud before, no matter what.

Fifteenth hour: More desperate measures. Ted’s thigh pains intensified. I stroked Ted’s leg with a hard hairbrush. This released neural energy. Its full stimulation peaks after about forty minutes. In addition there was thigh stretching. Ted sat in a chair. I pushed on the bottom of his feet so that his knees pushed toward his chest. It was excruciating. But it temporarily relieved the terrible stiffness.

15:22. Ted finally crossed the 100-mile barrier. His time was still not bad, but negative thoughts engulfed him.

Sixteenth hour: After 15 hours Ron Bentley slowed. He was grimacing. He clenched his fists. But he still chugged ahead.

Seventeenth hour: Keating’s handler asked, “How’s it going, Ron?” He replied, “I’m mighty tired, mate.” Yet he seemed just as determined.

Ted stopped for another leg brushing. His thighs shook. He swayed. He groaned tragically. “I can’t go through this for another seven hours.” Ted was shattered. My job was to keep Ted running, and I replied, “Oh yes you can. The others are in just as much trouble. They are not quitting”.

Ted groaned, took some candy washed down with blackberry juice, and crept on for the next round. At around 112 miles, Ted conceded. He was totally exhausted, his thighs were burning with pain. He knew there was no conceivable way to reach his primary goal of 150 miles.

It was humiliating to be so impotent after training so hard. What had gone wrong? Theoretically he should have been able to top Arthur Newton’s 152 miles. From the marathon to 50 to 100 miles Ted was faster than Newton. Ted was not simply falling behind, he had been in trouble from the third hour.

He gave up. No, he didn’t walk off the track. He stopped struggling. Through the mist of fatigue his thoughts turned to how he would do it differently, next time. Even before this hell was over he focussed on the next 24-hour race. This was how he erased his sense of failure.

Eighteenth hour: 12 noon. The sun peered through the grey overcast. The raw wind chilled the runners, stiffened them, and made the running even tougher.

Keating finally quit. He reached the 100th mile, staggered into the dressing room, vomited, and lay groaning on the floor. He had to sleep several hours before he could dress. Several other inert forms slept on the floor: Riley, Berry, Casse. The battle tightened. Bentley was uncatchable, but the distance between Ted and several others diminished. Turner, now recovered from his fear, made up enormous distance. Funnell, Hart and Ken Shaw also closed in.

Now came the next bizarre running phase. Just as some claim it is possible to drink oneself sober, here the men had exhausted themselves back into condition. There was more wild running.

For instance, for two hours the spectators waited for Pat Ferguson to collapse. His eyes were glassy. His head hung at an angle. A senseless smile remained on his face. His stride was jerky, as if he was in a trance. Suddenly he exploded.

His ashen face gained colour, his posture was of a confident miler. This burst lasted more than half an hour. The, he was shuffling as before.

Nineteenth hour: Turner caught Ferguson’s fire and began flying. He moved from fifth to fourth to third. He showed no signs of slowing. He closed in on Ted who was too helpless to fight back. Ted’s stride had degenerated into a tottering lurch.

To keep Ted from walking, I trotted alongside and give him fluids on the run, and then paced him for half a lap to get his momentum back.

Ron Bentley’s stride was now bow-legged from extreme stiffness but he still was running. Brother Gordon, 40 miles behind, pluckily limped along, shouting encouragement as Ron closed in on the world record. Amazingly, 11 of the original 15 starters were still on the track.

Twentieth hour: Suddenly, with terrifying speed, the track became flooded in a torrential downpour. For Ted this was a nightmare piled on top of hell.

In ten minutes the track was awash under two inches of water. This was the final blow. He was chilled to the bone and mentally shattered.

The rain also severely affected Turner. His powerful forward impulse crumbled, slogging through the muddy water. But in ten minutes Corbitt could no longer run. He shook all over. He thought, “Oh no, not this too.” He went into shock. He was no longer coherent. It seemed as though he was approaching the outer limits of his life force.

A British masseur and I took Ted into the dressing room, under the stands, where it was dry. The Britisher violently rubbed his thighs to generate heat. He tried to force Ted’s knees against his chest to stretch the thigh muscles that had become so intolerably stiff.

Ted was bundled in a dry sweater and again led to the track. Miraculously, the downpour stopped. Ted drank hot coffee, then slogged on through the ankle deep water. He seemed only half-alive.

Twenty-first hour: It grew dark again. The men began their second night of running. Ted moved mechanically. Where the others skirted a deep puddle, he plodded directly through it.

By now the stands were filled with spectators. Their cheers indicated they understood his fight against all-encompassing exhaustion.

Twenty-second hour: It was pitch dark. The stadium lights cast eerie reflections on the pools of water. The scene deteriorated into shambles. The runners were mud drenched… Then a miracle occurred…. As the runners conceived the end of the run they began moving faster and faster. Some men approached their best times for 20 miles as they broke through their 22 hours of fear.

Ron Bentley deteriorated. His thigh muscles gave way. He made several quarter mile walks. It seemed the record might elude him. But soon he was back, plugging on, running slowly and painfully but running.

Twenty-third hour: Shortly after the 22nd hour Bentley passed Derek Reynold’s British record of 154.7 miles. This was set in the same race with Hayward. Now less than five miles separated Bentley from Hayward. He had two hours to accomplish it.

With one hour and one minute remaining, Bentley, amidst exploding flashbulbs and television lights, finally surpassed Hayward’s mark!

But as soon as he added a few yards, Bentley stopped dead. He wrapped himself in a blanket, and accompanied by his wife, slowly limped around the track for the remaining hour. Once having put his name on the record books, his concentration, his fierce motivation dissolved. In the final hour he only hobbled two miles.

Twenty-fourth hour: For Ted, there was no sense of relief, just numbness as the final hour began. In contrast, in the track 50 and 100, there had been some elation in the last laps.

With two hours to go, Corbitt seemed safely in second place. He had a three-mile edge over Peter Hart. With one hour to go another revolution took place inside Hart. He exploded again. Someone said it seemed that Hart was running out of hell. He flashed past everyone, lap after lap.

The announcer and the fans became hysterical as the distance between Corbitt and Hart evaporated. For 13 hours Ted held second place. Now, with 30 minutes left, Hart moved to within two laps of him.

The track was a madhouse. Fans and handlers clogged the track, making an obstacle course for the runners. We implored Ted to fight harder to resist Hart’s challenge. It was useless. Ted was scarcely alive. He had nothing left.

After 23 hours and 40 minutes, Hart passed Corbitt. Hart did not seem to know where he was. But his legs kept churning. Don Turner and Ken Shaw also closed in inexorably.

Ted actually felt relieved when Hart passed. Now he would not have to fight on. The pressure was off.

Then, the bell rang, it was over! The ultimate nightmare had ended. There was tremendous confusion. Well-wishers swarmed all over. As soon as he stopped Ted developed the debilitating “flash stiffness” he experience in the 100.

Bentley: 161.3 miles. Hart: 136.4 miles. Corbitt: 134.6 miles. Shaw: 132.2 miles. Turner: 130.4 miles. Funnell: 122.9 miles.

Ted was carried like a rag doll to the community bath where he lay, with the others, for half an hour. He had to be lifted out and dressed and carried to a car for the return journey to Turner’s home.