The Genealogical Society of South Africa

Marathon for McArthur

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On Saturday, 10 November 2012, Potchefstromers and participating athletes had a taste of a marathon ran In Stockholm Sweden a hundred years ago during the Traumeel KK McArthur Memorial Marathon and Road Race. This grueling marathon was won by the Irish born Potchefstromer, Kennedy Kane McArthur in a record time of 2:36:54 on July 14, 1912.

The water point in front of the former home of McArthur in

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102Kock Street Potchefstroom was manned by members of GSSA North West Branch, Heritage Potchefstroom and the staff of the
Potchefstroom Museum.  Dressed in period dress and old-fashioned music, played on an authentic "His Masters Voice" gramophone in the background, they encouraged the athletes vociferously, spoiling them with orange slices and cold drinks. Nearly 1,000 athletes took part in the memorial marathon and road race.  Among them was Josiah Thugwane, the only other South African who has since succeeded to win an Olympic marathon and Blanche Moila who dominated road races in South Africa in the women's division in the 1970's and 80's. A delegation of 6 Irishmen, including 2 former mayors of Dervock, had specially travelled to Potchefstroom to be part of the anniversary event. 

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Everyone agreed that the KK  McArthur Memorial Marathon and Road Race must definitely become an annual event in Potchefstroom.
Kennedy Kane McArthur was born on February 10, 1881 in Dervock Northern Ireland.  He was the second of five children from the marriage of Robert Jamieson McArthur and Mary Ann McArthur. After his schooling, he was a postman in Dervock and District. With the outbreak of the Anglo-Boer War, McArthur joined the South African Constabulary that served in the former Transvaal.  As a policeman,

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he was stationed in Potchefstroom at Lindequesdrift,  Kraalkop and later in Potchefstroom.
In 1904 McArthur completed his first race between Klerksdorp and Potchefstroom (57 km).  During his athletic career, he took part in a total of 6 marathons and won them all.  Despite his achievements, he was not selected for the Springbok team in 1908 that participated in the London Olympics.  This honour would be bestowed on him 1912 when he and his Springbok team-mate, Christopher Gitsham  participated in the Stockholm Marathon.  At the halfway mark Gitsham was first and McArthur third.  Approximately 3.2 miles from the finish line Gitsham stopped at a fountain along the road to drink water. McArthur kept running and crossed the finish line in a record time of 2:36:54.  Gitsham was second with a time of 2:37:52. Of the 69 athletes that took part in the race, only 34 finished.
On McArthur's return to South Africa he suffered an injury that ended his athletic career.  He died 13/08/1960 at the age of 79 years and was buried in Potchefstroom Cemetery.
McArthur's Springbok jacket, the laurel wreath he received during Stockholm Olympics, his athletic number (No. 613), and his medals and trophies can be viewed in the Potchefstroom Museum.