Powderhall Stadium, Edinburgh, Scotland: 1921-23
Eric looked around the stadium. It was the most ridiculous thing he had ever seen! The sight of men in shorts was enough to make him laugh, and the way they looked when exercising was certainly not helping.
As he looked down at his feet to keep from laughing, Eric noticed the shadow of a man approaching. He felt a tap on the shoulder, “Excuse me, but you are Eric Liddell are you not?” Eric looked up, “I am.”
“Tom McKerchar,” the man introduced himself, extending his hand, “I’m an athletic trainer at the university. I was told I’d find you here.” After they shook hands, Eric asked, “I know you’re supposed to help, but what more can you tell me than to run as fast as I can?” Tom glanced at the ground and then into Eric’s clear blue eyes, “Well…let’s just say I’ve seen you race…”
Tom had never seen anyone run quite like Eric Liddell. But, he knew that he could help Eric run faster, even if he didn’t change his “windmill” style running.
So, for three days a week, Eric and Tom met at Powderhall Stadium for training.
Stoke-on-Trent, England: July 1923
Eric’s heart beat faster as he got into his starting position. As he glanced to his right, he saw England’s runner, J.J. Gillies, eying the inside lane. What will Gillies do to win this race? Eric asked himself. The official raised the small starting gun to the sky, “On the count of three, gentlemen, and then the gun will sound.” To the runners on the track, seconds seemed like minutes until the official pulled the trigger. Bang! As the sound of the gun echoed through the stadium, the runners lunged forward.
Fifteen yards into the race, J.J. Gillies made his move. He cut right in front of Eric, sending him into the grass. Eric quickly scrambled to his feet. By now, even the slowest runner was twenty yards ahead. Someone in the stands was shouting at him, “Forty yards to go, Liddell!” He made his way closer to the finish. Everyone was cheering for him. His head went back; he started swinging his arms like windmills. Yard by yard, Eric overtook the other runners, until he was in first place.