IT began as a bet over a casual drink in the Bowyer’s Arms in 1963 but it appears the annual Good Friday walk from Radley to Oxford and back may die out after 50 years.
Villagers have been walking the 12.5 miles from the pub to Carfax in Oxford and back, every Good Friday, since the year The Beatles topped the charts.
But a lack of volunteers mean this year’s event may be called off and some fear the village tradition could even die out completely.
Last year’s organiser Graham Collett, 65, from Radley, explained: “I organised it as a one-off last year when the former organiser’s wife became ill.
“I had some people lined up to take over this year because I am not here on Good Friday, but now that has fallen through, and unless we can get people involved in the next two weeks, this year’s could be abandoned and the following years’ could be in jeopardy too.”
The Radley Walk started when villager Jack Parsons bet his friend George Steptoe a pint of beer that he could walk the quickest from the Bowyer Arms to Carfax and back. And he did.
The two decided to repeat the walk the following year and it quickly became a village tradition, surviving even when Jack and George became too old to take part.
In fact, the two men organised the 1966 event and were at the finish line to see a dead heat, in one hour 55 minutes, between Sgt Ian Parsons, a 19-year-old parachute training instructor from RAF Abingdon, and 19-year-old student Brian Diffey, of Selwyn Crescent, Radley.
Thirty years later, in 1996, there were 57 walkers.
The 1984 event
Darren Fox was the first home out of 29 finishers in a record-breaking time of one hour 56 minutes. And this time still stands today as the official event record.
The race, which passes through Kennington, now has seven ‘classes’, including Local Man, Local Woman, Over-35 and Youth.
A special ‘half walk’ of six miles was introduced in 2008 for younger walkers.
The Radley Triangle route around the village, for accompanied children under 12, was introduced in 2003.
Mr Collett added: “It isn’t a big job to organise the walk. The organiser oversees the giving out of race numbers and then time people as they come back in, to record places in all the different categories.
“Cups are then awarded for the fastest women, man and child, etc, and a raffle is later drawn, tickets for which are sold in the pub that day. I’m quite sure that if someone came forward others would come forward to help them.”
About 40 people took part in last year’s Radley Walk, which also raises money through a raffle for the village or a local charity.
Peter Wiblin, 57, from north Abingdon has competed every year for the past 22 years.
He said: “It’s terrible news that it might have to stop. This is a unique tradition, enjoyed by many people including myself and my two daughters. The eldest, Elizabeth, has won the ladies’ race for the last five years and even came second overall last year.”
To volunteeer for this year’s race contact Mr Collett on 01235 555187