Joe Blewitt, one of three brothers, grew up near Upton-on-Severn. His father died in the year he was born. He worked for the Great Western railway company and began to run, continuing when the GWR was taken over by the government in WW1 and winning the inter-services one mile championship in 1919. That year, newly married, he joined Birchfield Harriers.
These were the “Chariots of Fire” years; Harold Abrahams competed at meetings in which Joe led the field in longer distances. By his retirement from active athletics in 1928, he’d won such respect for his leadership and his track and cross-country performances at both Club and International level that a testimonial raised enough to install him as licensee of the Saddler’s Arms in Franchise Street, Perry Barr, where he remained almost until his death in 1954. The pub was later demolished to make way for road improvements, but the legend of his performances lives on.
He’s particularly remembered as a member of the hugely successful Birchfield cross-country team of the 1920s, running with Walter Freeman and Jack Beman. His first place and Birchfield’s win at Beaconsfield in 1923, described as “the greatest performance by a club in any championship at any time in sport’s history” came just before his first international win at a match in Paris. He ran in the 1920 and 1928 Olympics, winning silver in the 3000m team event in 1920, and in his last year of competition he ran the first leg of the London to Brighton relay in a record time, helping his club to win the race.