A Horsham film company, which will see its first feature film screen nationally next month, is making a documentary about one of the district’s greatest sporting heroes.
Fact Not Fiction Films has had success with A Dark Reflection, a thriller based on the real-life issue of the safety of air breathed on aeroplanes.
Its next project, called ‘The Greatest Race Ever Run’ focuses on the life of Slinfold-born builder Alfred Shrubb, who became a world famous runner.
As a builder he also helped build Christ’s Hospital School, but it was his sporting talent that made him a local celebrity.
Assistant director Sarah Hamson, who is leading on the project, said ‘Alfred Shrubb was Horsham’s first athletic superstar’.
She described how he would race the fire truck, and once beat it to the scene of a fire in Southwater.
“It was a bit of a sport,” she said. “The alarm would go off and they would say ‘let’s see if we can get there first’. Although he used to run to work, he wasn’t an athlete.
“Once he got into competitive running, it became apparent just how good he was.”
The documentary is named after a race on November 5 1904, at the Ibrox Stadium in Glasgow where Shrubb made history.
Sarah said: “He shattered seven world records in one race.
“(Breaking records) is such a familiar thing now. People like Mo Farah; when they smash a record, even if you are not into athletics, it’s a big deal. He shattered seven world records in one race, on one day.
“He was called the Little Wonder because he wasn’t a big lad. He was a little wiry man.”
His career took him all over the world. He became well known in Australia and America, but in those days athletics was reserved for the rich.
You needed to have money to make a success of yourself - and that was what brought his career to an end in England.
Sarah said: “As an amateur, he couldn’t make a living out of it. Because he was such an accomplished athlete he went to Australia. In those days it was six weeks by ship.
“At the peak of his career he retired because he was accepting expenses.
“Unlike in modern athletics, you test positive for something, for example, you are banned for a season. For him, that was it. It was over.
“He had represented his county and country, made all those achievements, but that was it.”
Although he lost his name here as a hero, at his new home in America he carried on competing, even racing horses.
He did return to England, but this time as a coach at Oxford University training the elite. Some of the real-life Chariots of Fire team were part of his training squad.
However his working class background caught up with him again and he returned to North America, but his memory lives on in the sporting arena.
Athletic greats Seb Coe, Roger Bannister and Brendan Foster are just a three of those who speak highly of using Shrubb’s training regimes to excel in their field.
The Fact Not Fiction team hopes to feature some of them in the documentary and to also reawaken Horsham’s love for him.
There are a few memorials to him here if you know where to look.
A paving slab installed in recent renovation in West Street, where he had a tobacconist shop, records his achievement.
The Tube indoor running track at Broadbridge Heath Leisure Centre is named after him.
There is a permanent exhibition in Horsham Museum where people can see his running shoes and other memorabilia including his medals.
Museum curator Jeremy Knight said: “Most people have no idea. The level of public perception in Horsham is very slight.
“Those who are keen runners and have a keen interest in sport know, but for the general public it’s (a reaction of) surprise. They never knew that about Horsham.
“It’s an amazing story that people are quite surprise to learn about.
“Because he moved abroad, his family declined and he was ‘a man who ran against a horse’. The fact he won all those awards wasn’t remembered.”
The production team want something more prominent for all to see.
Sarah said: “His named is alive and well in Canada. What we want to do by producing this documentary in bring back his name where he was born and bred in Horsham.
“His headquarters was the Anchor Hotel and that was where he was brought back to celebrate all his successes.
“He was Horsham’s sporting superstar yet there’s nothing in the town that acknowledges or celebrates that.
“Part of what we’d like to achieve is a life-size statue to commemorate on of the nation’s greatest athletes.”