Victoria Park Harriers and Tower Hamlets Athletics Club

Friendly east London club for athletes of all abilities


VPH and THAC Olympians

Sydney Lancaster Sarel

5th in Heat 1 of Round 1, 3.5 km walk (17 mins 6.0 s), London, 1908

Sydney Sarel was a Vice President of the club in the post-war period and was well-liked throughout the East End, as Gordon Everson recalls in chapter 3 of his history of VPH:

"Prebendary Sarel was a great East End character. A former Rural Dean of Bethnal Green, he had finished 5th in the 1908 Olympic 3,500 metres walk and, even when into his seventies, he could still be seen trotting round Victoria Park with shorts to his knees and wearing his Olympic cap. When interviewed by the "Hackney Gazette", he said, "I consider myself a very fortunate third class man who has been able to be of use by being on the spot sometimes when wanted". Prebendary Sarel rated highly in the affections of all who knew him. He died in 1951 aged 78."

The following appears at

"After narrowly failing to [achieve] a blue as a half-miler for Oxford, Sydney Sarel took up walking and cross-country running after he entered the Church. Although placing sixth in the 7 mile walk at the 1908 AAA Championships, he was elected for the shorter of the two walking events at the Olympics and was eliminated in the heats of the 3,500 walk. He became a legendary figure for his missionary work on London’s East End and his obituary in The Times reported, “For many years, he made a practice of changing into running kit at 11 PM sharp and running round the streets of Bethnal Green with a stop-watch in his hand. He was a beloved figure throughout the Borough, to the interests of whose people he devoted his life.” He served as President of London AC in 1928."

Rene William Howell

7th in Heat 3 of Round 1, 3000 metres Steeplechase (time unknown), London, 1948

Rene Howell was a member of the club in the 1930s, but moved to Finchley after the Second World War and joined the Polytechnic Harriers.

Geoffrey Lionel "Geoff" Iden

9th in the marathon (2 hrs 30 mins 42.0 s), Helsinki, 1952

Geoff Iden joined the club after the war, coming from Queens Park Harriers, and soon became part of one of the best distance teams in the country, as Gordon Everson describes in chapter 3 of his history of VPH:

"In 1949 Iden decided to take up the marathon. This encouraged other members to attempt the longer distances on the road and before long VPH could boast one of the most formidable teams in the country. The 1949 Poly Marathon saw us take 4th place in the team race with Iden 5th, Wally Johnson 9th, John Turner 42nd, Albert Abrahams 63rd, Frank Fuller 104th and from that moment, we went from strength to strength. Ted and Jack Flowers soon came into the scoring team and for several years we could guarantee to take a prize in races of 15 miles and over. Geoff Iden went on to represent Great Britain at the 1952 Helsinki Olympiad and those years in the early fifties are a golden page in Club history."

Mike McFarlane

Mike ran for the club as a junior, as recounted by Gordon Everson in chapter 4 of his history of VPH:

"[In 1976,] Mike McFarlane had a sensational season for he scored a sprint double in the A.A.A. Youths Championships with records of 10.7 secs. and 21.4 secs. and then went on to snatch 3rd place in the A.A.A. Senior 100 metres in 10.69 secs. In the same Championships, Danny King reached the 400 metres final and, although he was unplaced, was rewarded with a Junior International Badge, as was McFarlane."

Mike joined Haringey AC during their golden years and competed at three Olympic Games:

Mike also won medals at three Commonwealth Games and a European Championships.

Perri Shakes-Drayton (@shakesdrayton)

3rd in semi-final 2, 400 m hurdles (9th fastest, 55.19 s), London, 2012

5th, 4 x 400 m, London, 2012

Perri joined the club as a junior and has been coached by Chris Zah ever since. She is a World Indoor 4 x 400 m champion, European Indoor 400 m and 4 x 400 m champion, and National 400 m hurdles champion.

A detailed biography appears on Perri's website.

IAAF Profile

Team GB Profile

Her London 2012 results are below:

400m Hurdles (WR 52.34s, OR 52.64s, Perri's PB 53.77s)

Women's 4 x 400m (WR 3m 15.17s, OR 3m 15.17s)

Perri Shakes-Drayton at the UK Olympic Trials and Championships

Perri Shakes-Drayton of VPHTHAC and Great Britain celebrates victory in the Women's 400 Metres Hurdles Final during day three of the Aviva 2012 UK Olympic Trials and Championship at Alexander Stadium on June 24, 2012 in Birmingham. (Source: Jamie McDonald/Getty Images Europe)