Less than a month later, on October 24, both were on the road again to tackle Hardy Ballington’s 100-mile record on the Bath Road. Again Hayward won, running the distance in 12:20:28, more than an hour faster than the old record of South African Hardy Ballington13:19:00. Mekler also beat Ballington’s old record and finished in 13:08:36. On the strength of these performances, Newton suggested that Hayward, together with Mekler, should attempt the 24-hour track record. Interestingly, Mekler was only 1 month older than 21 years and thus became one of the world’s youngest ultramarathoners.
On November 20 at Motspur Park, Hayward again set out after Newton’s 24-hour record (see Exercises 8.16). Running at a steady 12.8 km/hr (8 mi/hr), Hayward passed 100 km in a new world-record time of 7:41:36 and 100 miles in a new world (track) record time of 12:46:34.
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Hayward was running comfortably until, against his better judgment, he let Newton persuade him to come off after 160 km for a shower and a rubdown, something Newton found to have an “almost magical” effect. Unfortunately, the shower proved disastrous. Hayward’s muscles tightened up; he struggled to run and though he had run 150 km (94 miles) in the first 12 hours of the race, he could manage only a further 106 km (66 miles) in the last 12 hours, giving him a finishing distance of 256.4 km, an improvement of 11.3 km on Newton’s old track record.
Hayward later described the unremitting boredom of that race:
You run purely mechanically; all you can see is the track. You run like a pig who puts his nose to the ground and just runs. Later you think of just one thing, that the 24-hours must finally end. And then when it was finally over, I said: “Thank the Lord that I’ve finished” and “never again.” (Hauman, 1979, pp. 4M2)
Exercises 8.16 Wally Hayward receives a drink from Arthur Newton during his 24-hour world-record run in November 1953.
The magnitude of Hayward’s achievement on that day is shown by the length of time it took for his records to be broken. The 100-km and 160-km records were broken only in 1969 and 1968, respectively, by South African Dave Box; by 1979 Hayward’s 24-hour record had been broken by only one man, Briton Ron Bentley.
Hayward was clearly at the peak of his powers in 1953 and continued in the same vein the following year, winning the 1954 Comrades Marathon for a fifth time, in 6:12:55. Then, on August 12, 1954, he was declared a professional for having accepted money to cover part of the cost of going to England. Only in the mid-1970s was Hayward’s amateur status renewed, and he celebrated this in 1978 by setting a world marathon age record of 3:06:24 for 70-year-olds. In 1988, at age 79, he ran his sixth Comrades Marathon, the first he ever lost, finishing in 9:44:15, equivalent to a time of 4:48 for a 30-year-old (see Exercises 9.4).
When measured in 1978, Hayward’s V02max was 56.8 ml/kg/min (Maud et al, 1981), and it was estimated that he had run at 86% V02max when setting the world marathon age record for a 70-year-old. No heart or other abnormalities were noted during those examinations; in particular, his back, hip, and knee
Joints showed no evidence of osteoarthritis, and he was considered to be in excellent health.
Like all the runners of his era, Hayward knew little of science. His training methods were very simple. At the start of his career all his training had been short and fast, but after World War II he slowed down and ran farther distances. From 1946 to 1954 the basis of his training was 100 miles a week mostly at 5:00/km. On Sunday he ran 48 to 80 km with a recovery 8-km run on Monday. From Tuesday to Friday he ran 16 to 24 km a day, and on Saturday he rested or ran a cross-country race. He included some speed training (fartlek) and ran crosscountry races in winter. His pre-Comrades long runs were of 48 to 112 km (30 to 70 miles), and he ran four to six runs longer than 70 km in the 5 months leading up to the Comrades. These long runs gave him the confidence he needed for the Comrades, and his last long run would be 3 to 4 weeks before that race.