Ultrarunning History podcast

91: The Six-Day Race – Part 1: The Birth (1773-1870)

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26:20
15 Sekunden vorwärts
15 Sekunden vorwärts
By Davy Crockett You can read, listen, or watch Recently, the six-day race received some attention in ultrarunning news because the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) announced that they would no longer recognize the six-day event or keep records for it. This shocked many ultrarunning historians and particularly runners who participate in multi-day fixed-time races.  After a brief uproar, the new IAU leadership back-peddled, somewhat admitted to their ignorance about six-day ultrarunning history and agreed to continue to recognize the event that has roots in the sport going back nearly 250 years. Ultrarunners who exclusively run trails may wonder, “what is this six-day race and why is it important?”  The six-day race is an event to see how far you can run or walk in a period of 144 hours or six days on roads, tracks, or trails. Six days was a historic time limit established to avoid competing on Sundays, respecting local laws of the time and the religious beliefs of many of the participants. Help is needed to continue the Ultrarunning History Podcast and website. Please consider becoming a patron of ultrarunning history. Help to preserve this history by signing up to contribute a few dollars each month through Patreon. Visit https://ultrarunninghistory.com/member Six-Day Background Today, the six-day world record is held by Yiannis Kouros of Greece, who covered an astonishing distance of 635 miles on a track in New York City in 1984. Later in 1988, he covered 639 miles on a paved loop course at Flushing Meadows, also in New York. Historically, the six-day race grew out of solo six-day challenges, motivated by significant wagers and fame. They were first accomplished by ultra-distance walker/runners referred to as “pedestrians” who covering staggering distances during the late 1700s. Recent research has discovered that there were far more athletes than previously known, who took up the six-day challenge in the early 1800s. These occurred exclusively in Britain. Their grueling runs/walks were accomplished outdoors on dirt and muddy roads/trails, frequently in harsh weather conditions. In the late 1800s, as attention was revived for these six-day solo accomplishments, egos and greed of participants and organizers also grew. The six-day challenges evolved into competitions in America between multiple walkers, and the six-day races were born, attracting thousands of spectators. It became the most popular spectator sport in America for more than a decade. How did the six-day challenge begin?  Here is the story. Foster Powell, the Father of the Six-Day Race Long before the six-day races began in the late 1800s, there were numerous six-day walking feats that have been mostly lost in history. The first famous British “pedestrian,” Foster Powell (1734-1793) started the focus on walking/running for six days and can be considered the “Father of the Six-Day Race.” Foster Powell was born in 1734, in the small village of Horsforth, Yorkshire, England, near the city of Leeds. His father was William Powell, a prominent farmer. When Foster Powell was 28, in 1762, he moved to London to work as a law clerk for a “temple lawyer” at an inn. There were a group of inns in London called the “Inns of Court” attached to Churches, used as offices for clerks and lawyers. These inns consisted of sections called the Inner Temple and Middle Temple. In 1766, Powel moved, and went to work for his uncle at New Inn (next to Clements Inn), another inn for clerks and lawyers. He worked and lived there for the rest of his life. Powell worked hard but was the object of ridicule by his fellow clerks who regarded him as “a milksop and a muff.” He was described as “a cadaverous-looking young fellow, thin and apparently weak. He was thought very little of, either in respect of his mental or physical qualities.” He was “a quiet inoffensive lad, shy, and somewhat unsocial,

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    94: The Six-Day Race Part 3: P.T. Barnum – Ultrarunning Promoter (1874)

    28:55

    By Davy Crockett You can read, listen, or watch The ultimate showman, P.T. Barnum of circus fame, was surprisingly the first serious ultrarunning promoter and established the first six-day race in America. He waswe famous for the saying “There’s a sucker is born every minute,” and figured out how to get America to come out by the thousands to watch skinny guys walk, run and suffer around a small indoor track for hours and days as part of his “Greatest Show on Earth” presented in the heart of New York City. In this episode, details of Barnum’s connection to ultrarunning history are told for the first time. In part one of this six-day series, Foster Powell started it all in 1773 in England, seeking to reach 400 miles in less than six days. In part two, nearly a century later, the challenge was restored in America with the famous walker Edward Payson Weston, who was both cheered and ridiculed. As this third part opens, Weston seeks more than anything to reach 500 miles in six days, which had never been accomplished before. He had failed in his first serious attempt, reaching “only” 430 miles and was called by some, “The Great American Fizzler.” P.T. Barnum soon enters the story to lend support. Help is needed to continue the Ultrarunning History Podcast, website, and Hall of Fame. Please consider becoming a patron of ultrarunning history. Help to preserve this history by signing up to contribute a few dollars each month through Patreon. Visit https://ultrarunninghistory.com/member Edward Mullen Seeks 500 Miles in Six Days Weston's failure to reach 500 miles spurred others to give it try, even those with little experience, in an attempt to cash in on wagers. A key figure in this history, Edward Mullen, of Boston, Massachusetts, came on the stage in 1874 to try to steal the spotlight from Weston. Mullen was a talented ten-mile walker, but unproven at ultra-distances. His "500 miles in six days" attempt came at the Washington Riding Academy at 26th Street and 6th Ave in New York City. Beacon Trotting Park It was reported, “Mullen has never, previous to the present time, engaged in any walking match for any long distance, the longest race hitherto being twelve miles.”  Mullen began his pedestrian career only a year earlier in July 1873 at Beacon Trotting Park, Boston, when he won a short-distance walking race. That was the first of many impressive wins up to ten miles. But it seemed rather bold for him to go after the 500-mile six-day barrier. The track for his attempt was said to be 17.3 laps to a mile (305 feet). He began his quest at 12:24 a.m. on June 15, 1874. “Mullen was dressed in full walking costume, consisting of white Guernsey, blue silk trunks and white hose, with Oxford shoes. He is somewhat slimly built, is about five feet ten inches high and weighs 130 pounds. As he turned to commence his journey, he started off somewhat slowly, his step, however, being elastic and springy.” He finished his first mile, in a very surprisingly fast time of 7:22. On day one, he accomplished the 115-mile 24-hours task, beating Weston's 115-mile time by five minutes. At that point he collapsed and had to be carried off the track by his backers. By day three, the determined Mullen had reached 233 miles on very swollen legs, one mile ahead of Weston's failed pace. Fraud Detected On day four, an observant New York Daily Herald reporter suspected that a "trick" was taking place as he counted Mullen's paces per lap. "The Herald reporter watched for some hours and finally concluded that the pace at which Mullen was walking did not agree with the time announced. This aroused a suspicion that there was something wrong with the track and that the walk was not an honest one."  He also noticed that Mullen was taking rests more than twice as long as Weston had during his walk, and yet Mullen kept pace somehow. Also odd, Mullen’s respiration was very labored after walking a stretch of only a few ...
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    93: Eric Clifton – Legendary 100-mile Trail Ultrarunner

    32:50

    By Davy Crockett You can read, listen, or watch Congratulations to Eric Clifton, originally from North Carolina, now of California, who was inducted into the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame on November 19, 2021.  Clifton was the fastest and most dominating 100-mile trail runner during the 1990s as trail ultras became popular in America. His “go for broke” race strategy was legendary, as he demonstrated to the rapidly expanding sport that amazing speed on trails could be achieved. During his entire career, he has attained more than 60 ultra wins, including 17 of his 31 100-mile finishes. He was known for his colorful running tights and was the original “Jester” of ultrarunning. During the 1990s, Clifton had the most overall 100-mile trail wins in the world. He was a prolific ultrarunner and very fast, with more sub-15-hour 100-mile finishes on trails than anyone during that era. He would win by wide margins on hilly trail courses, sometimes by hours. He set more than 20 course records, still holding some of them after three decades. Help is needed to continue the Ultrarunning History Podcast and website. Please consider becoming a patron of ultrarunning history. Help to preserve this history by signing up to contribute a few dollars each month through Patreon. Visit https://ultrarunninghistory.com/member Eric Clifton was born in 1958, Albuquerque, New Mexico but moved to North Carolina when he was young where his father went into the milk business.  Eric started distance running as a senior at Northeast Guilford High School in 1976, in North Carolina, where he ran the two-miler. After finished his first race, he swore to himself that he would never run that hard, and that fast for the rest of his life. A friend suggested that he go out for cross-country. Clifton said, “Running cross-country? That sounds like me, I want to do that. I asked, ‘How many miles a day do you guys run?’ He replied, “About ten miles a day.’ OK, I’m out. He scared me away.” Little did Clifton know that he would average running 10 miles a day for much of his future running career. Serious Running Begins Clifton in 1978 in Greensboro, NC Clifton went to college at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, where running teams were not fielded. The running boom had not yet reached North Carolina. But in 1977, he started his true running career. As a college freshman, he read an article in the school newspaper about a professor who would be running in the Boston Marathon. He recalled, “I read this article and I was amazed. Wait a minute, there are races that are competitive events for people who aren’t in school doing track or cross-country? It blew my mind.” Within a week he entered his first race, a seven-miler. He had a blast and was hooked on running after that. Running at Boston became his primary goal. At the time, the qualifying standard for him was 2:50. He ran his first marathon in 3:38. As he kept trying, his finish times went up instead of down. It took him three years before his times dramatically improved. “I finally had a race where I didn’t die. I ran strongly the entire way and did a 2:39. And everybody asked, ‘What did you do?’ I replied, 'It was what I didn’t do, I didn’t die.'” But by the time he qualified for Boston, he had lost interest and did not run there until many years later. Triathlons 1981 First Triathlon Win In 1980, Clifton watched the Ironman on television in its third year and knew that the event was for him. During the ‘80s, Clifton shifted away from running marathons, turned to triathlons and excelled. He ran his first of several Ironmans in 1981. First Ultra - 1982 In 1982, Clifton ran in his first ultra, a 50-mile road race in Wilmington, North Carolina, called “The Lite Ultra” that ran on a four-mile loop. Don Aycock, age 30, originally from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, one of Clifton’s training partners, had subscribed to Ultrarunning Magazine.
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    92: The Six-Day Race – Part 2: Edward Payson Weston (1870-1874)

    24:17

    By Davy Crockett You can read, listen, or watch The six-day race became the most popular ultrarunning (pedestrian) event of the 19th century. In Part 1 of this series, Foster Powell started it all in 1773 when he ran 400 miles in six days in England. During the next fifty years, ultrarunners tried to match and beat his historic effort, especially during a four-year six-day frenzy of 1822-25. But after that, interest faded for the next fifty years until American, Edward Payson Weston came onto the pedestrian stage. Reaching the 1870s, the six-day challenge had not yet been exported outside Britain. But that changed as the challenge reached America and moved almost exclusively indoors, thanks to Weston. He became the most famous pedestrian in history. Weston was introduced in episode 54 for his impact on 100-mile history and in episode 26 for his famed transcontinental walk. Now we will examine his early impact of importing the six-day event to America, trying to reach 400 and 500 miles. Help is needed to continue the Ultrarunning History Podcast and website. Please consider becoming a patron of ultrarunning history. Help to preserve this history by signing up to contribute a few dollars each month through Patreon. Visit https://ultrarunninghistory.com/member Edward Payson Weston Edward Payson Weston (1839-1929) was born in Providence, Rhode Island on March 15, 1839. He was not particularly strong as a boy and took up walking to improve his health with exercise. As a teenager, he worked for a time in traveling circuses. He was athletic and won prizes in “wrestling, running, walking and leaping competitions.” He started long-distance walking by selling a book written by his mother door to door for 40 miles in Connecticut. When he was 22, after losing a bet, he walked from Boston to Washington to witness the inauguration of President Abraham Lincoln, covering 453 miles in about 208 hours. In 1867, he walked from Portland, Maine to Chicago, about 1,200 miles, in about 26 days, resting on Sundays. That walk brought him worldwide fame. But later he also received criticism as he failed in some wagered walking attempts, and he was called a “humbug” by many. Weston's Fame Grows Weston walking 100 miles In April 1870, Weston walked 100 miles in 21:38:20 in New York City, an accomplishment that silenced many critics. (For more about his early walking career, see episode 54.) During 1870, Weston came up with the idea to attempt to walk 400 miles in five days, as pedestrians fifty years earlier were trying to do. Had Weston, in 1870, heard about Foster Powell’s historic runs? In July 1870, British newspapers were announcing that Weston was coming to England in August to make his attempt, so it is likely that he understood some of the British pedestrian history involving six-day running. Weston did not travel to England in 1870 because he could not find enough financial backing but said he would make his attempt in America during the fall. Did Weston truly walk? His distinctive wobbly walking gait was a swinging stride, with a relaxed upper body and shoulders without pumping his arms. The action came mostly from his knees. Starting in the 1840s, a “fair heel-and-toe” racewalking style was established for walking in competitions. Weston was criticized by some of not using a true heel-toe racewalk, that it border-lined on running at times, with both feet off the ground at the same time. Weston’s First Multi-Day Attempt - 1870 During November 1870, Weston made his attempt to reach 400 miles within six days, and he was confident that he could actually do it within five days. He may have thought that no one had accomplished it before, and he would set a record. (James Tenny, in 1822. had reached 400 miles in four days, 23 hours, 22 minutes.) Weston’s $5,000 wager agreement required him to reach 400 miles in five days, and he also needed to walk 112 miles within a 24-hour period ...
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    91: The Six-Day Race – Part 1: The Birth (1773-1870)

    26:20

    By Davy Crockett You can read, listen, or watch Recently, the six-day race received some attention in ultrarunning news because the International Association of Ultrarunners (IAU) announced that they would no longer recognize the six-day event or keep records for it. This shocked many ultrarunning historians and particularly runners who participate in multi-day fixed-time races.  After a brief uproar, the new IAU leadership back-peddled, somewhat admitted to their ignorance about six-day ultrarunning history and agreed to continue to recognize the event that has roots in the sport going back nearly 250 years. Ultrarunners who exclusively run trails may wonder, “what is this six-day race and why is it important?”  The six-day race is an event to see how far you can run or walk in a period of 144 hours or six days on roads, tracks, or trails. Six days was a historic time limit established to avoid competing on Sundays, respecting local laws of the time and the religious beliefs of many of the participants. Help is needed to continue the Ultrarunning History Podcast and website. Please consider becoming a patron of ultrarunning history. Help to preserve this history by signing up to contribute a few dollars each month through Patreon. Visit https://ultrarunninghistory.com/member Six-Day Background Today, the six-day world record is held by Yiannis Kouros of Greece, who covered an astonishing distance of 635 miles on a track in New York City in 1984. Later in 1988, he covered 639 miles on a paved loop course at Flushing Meadows, also in New York. Historically, the six-day race grew out of solo six-day challenges, motivated by significant wagers and fame. They were first accomplished by ultra-distance walker/runners referred to as “pedestrians” who covering staggering distances during the late 1700s. Recent research has discovered that there were far more athletes than previously known, who took up the six-day challenge in the early 1800s. These occurred exclusively in Britain. Their grueling runs/walks were accomplished outdoors on dirt and muddy roads/trails, frequently in harsh weather conditions. In the late 1800s, as attention was revived for these six-day solo accomplishments, egos and greed of participants and organizers also grew. The six-day challenges evolved into competitions in America between multiple walkers, and the six-day races were born, attracting thousands of spectators. It became the most popular spectator sport in America for more than a decade. How did the six-day challenge begin?  Here is the story. Foster Powell, the Father of the Six-Day Race Long before the six-day races began in the late 1800s, there were numerous six-day walking feats that have been mostly lost in history. The first famous British “pedestrian,” Foster Powell (1734-1793) started the focus on walking/running for six days and can be considered the “Father of the Six-Day Race.” Foster Powell was born in 1734, in the small village of Horsforth, Yorkshire, England, near the city of Leeds. His father was William Powell, a prominent farmer. When Foster Powell was 28, in 1762, he moved to London to work as a law clerk for a “temple lawyer” at an inn. There were a group of inns in London called the “Inns of Court” attached to Churches, used as offices for clerks and lawyers. These inns consisted of sections called the Inner Temple and Middle Temple. In 1766, Powel moved, and went to work for his uncle at New Inn (next to Clements Inn), another inn for clerks and lawyers. He worked and lived there for the rest of his life. Powell worked hard but was the object of ridicule by his fellow clerks who regarded him as “a milksop and a muff.” He was described as “a cadaverous-looking young fellow, thin and apparently weak. He was thought very little of, either in respect of his mental or physical qualities.” He was “a quiet inoffensive lad, shy, and somewhat unsocial,
  • Ultrarunning History podcast

    90: JFK 50 – America’s Oldest Ultramarathon

    27:57

    By Davy Crockett You can read, listen, or watch In 1963, President John F. Kennedy unintentionally played a role that provided the spark to ignite interest for ultrarunning both in America and elsewhere. The door was flung open for all who wanted to challenge themselves.  An unexpected 50-mile frenzy swept across America like a raging fire that dominated the newspapers for weeks. Tens of thousands of people attempted to hike 50 miles, both the old and the very young. Virtually unnoticed was a small club 50-mile event hiked by high school boys in Maryland, that eventually became America's oldest ultra: The JFK 50, founded by Buzz Sawyer. Help is needed to continue the Ultrarunning History Podcast and website. Please consider becoming a patron of ultrarunning history. Help to preserve this history by signing up to contribute a few dollars each month through Patreon. Visit https://ultrarunninghistory.com/member Kennedy's Push for Physical Fitness While running for president, Kennedy had campaigned with a goal to improve the nation’s physical health, and once in office he made that a priority. He feared that the future generations would be spectators of sport rather than participants on the field of play because of their lack of physical fitness. In 1961 a “Fit as a Fiddle” newsreel was produced by Kennedy’s Physical Fitness Program targeting youth to understand the importance of physical fitness. Also, that year, 200,000 copies of a song called “Chicken Fat” was distributed to all schools with the lyrics, “Nuts to the flabby guys! Go, you chicken fat, go away!” Fitness Test for Marines General David M. Shoup Back in 1908, President Theodore Roosevelt issued an executive order that every Marine captain and lieutenant should be able to hike 50 miles in 20 hours. In 1962 Kennedy discovered this order and asked his Marine Commandant, David M. Shoup (1904-1983), to find out how well his present-day officers could do with the 50-mile test. Shoup made it an order to his Marines. Twenty Marine officers were selected to take the test in mid-February 1963, at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. News Article Starts the Frenzy An Associated Press article published nationwide on February 5, 1963, shared the story of the 50-mile test. It received intense national attention. President Kennedy never directly challenged the American public to take the 50-mile challenge, but the article inspired many across the country, who were eager to test themselves too. The Public Starts Hiking 50 Miles Naïve, untrained, civilians, immediately decided to hit the road without much planning to undertake the challenge in the middle of the cold winter. On the very evening after the article was published, Lt. Colonel James W. Tuma, age 48 (1914-1990) from Michigan, stationed at Fort Huachuca, near Tucson, Arizona, immediately decided to start a 50-mile hike through the Sonoran desert. You would think, Tuma, who held a Ph.D. in physical education, would have more sense, but away he went. He hiked through the night, not sleeping. He said, "Everybody was nice along the way, wanting to give me a ride." The next morning, he finished his 50 miles with a sprint for a time of 13.5 hours and was credited as the very first one to finish 50-miles at the start of the nation-wide craze. Robert F. Kennedy's 50-mile Hike On February 9th, four days after the story went public, Attorney General Robert F Kennedy decided to take the challenge himself and hike 50 miles. Without any specific training, Kennedy hiked away on the Chesapeake and Ohio (C&O) Canal towpath (the future home of the JFK 50) with his dog Brumis and some aids. After his 50-mile hike, Ethel Kennedy helps RFK recover. After 25 miles, the group was ready to give up. But the press had caught wind of what Kennedy was doing, and a helicopter arrived soon after with photographers and journalists. So, Kennedy set off again.
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    89: Spartathlon Part 2 (1983) – The First Race

    29:40

    By Davy Crockett You can read, listen, or watch Spartathlon, an ultra of 246 km (153 miles), takes place each September in Greece, running from Athens to Sparta and with its 36-hour cutoff. It is one of the toughest ultramarathons to finish. In Part 1 of this series, episode 88, the story was told how Spartathlon was born in 1982, the brainchild of an officer in the Royal Air Force, John Foden. Three servicemen successfully covered a route that was believed to have been taken in 490 B.C., by the Greek messenger, Pheidippides. The 1982 trial run set the stage for the establishment of the Spartathlon race. The race's 1983 inaugural year is covered in this part won by Yiannis Kouros of Greece. Help is needed to continue the Ultrarunning History Podcast and website. Please consider becoming a patron of ultrarunning history. Help to preserve this history by signing up to contribute a few dollars each month through Patreon. Visit https://ultrarunninghistory.com/member The Founding of Spartathlon in 1983 The Three Finishers. After John Foden and two others finished the historic 1982 trial run between Athens and Sparta, Foden told those at the finish, “You need to make the route we have run, a race.” However, he did not think seriously that a race would be organized anytime soon.  Michael Graham Callaghan (1945-2013), an Athens businessman, and a member of the British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce (BHCC) in Greece was the driving force and the founder of the formal Spartathon race. Back in 1982, Callaghan had helped Foden organize his trial run and obtained sponsors.  Callaghan was at the finish in Sparta and awarded the three finishers crowns of olive leaves. A month later, Callaghan received a kind letter from Air Marshal Thomas Kennedy from the Royal Air Force (RAF) in Germany, thanking him for his support of Foden’s 1982 RAF expedition run from Athens to Sparta. The letter included, “John Foden has told me about the invaluable help you gave the expedition when it found itself in financial straits that made its abandonment seem certain, and also in revamping its low-key publicity into a campaign that achieved international TV and press coverage. I should like to thank you most sincerely for your interest and your enterprise which prevented the possible cancellation of the expedition, and your initiative in recognizing that its success could be used to reinforce the friendly relations that exist between Great Britain and Greece. We are all very much in your debt.” This kind letter further helped Callaghan become captivated with the idea for a race and he charged ahead to make it happen. Plans for Spartathlon come together Just four months after the historic 1982 RAF expedition, in February 1983, the Hellenic Amateur Athletics Association (SEGAS) announced that Spartathlon would be held on September 30, 1983. The name for the race combined the Greek words for Sparta and Feat. Officially that first year it was called, the “Open International Spartathlon Race.” A multi-national team of supporters came together led by Callaghan and was based at the British Hellenic Chamber of Commerce in Athens. Under Greek law, Callaghan was not allowed to be the actual president of the organization, but he was the first race organizer. Foden said, “My idea to have a race would never have taken off if were not for Callaghan’s energy, enthusiasm and talents as a salesman. At the start he might not have known much about running and relied on the advice I gave him during visits to Greece, but he soon became very knowledgeable.” A group of Athens-based British businessmen were signed up to be the main sponsors for the 1983 race. Entrants Forty-four men and one woman from twelve countries were entered into the first Spartathlon. They arrived in Athens four days before the race, on September 26, 1983, and took a two-day bus ride to preview the course and sight-see.
  • Ultrarunning History podcast

    88: Spartathlon Part 1 (1982) – The Birth

    26:30

    By Davy Crockett You can read, listen, or watch Spartathlon is one of the most prestigious ultramarathons in the world. It is a race of about 246 km (153 miles), that takes place each September in Greece, running from Athens to Sparta on a highly significant route in world history. It attracts many of the greatest ultrarunners in the world. This is part one of a series on the history of Spartathlon. In this episode, we will cover how Spartathlon was born, a story that has never been fully told until now. It was the brainchild of an officer in the Royal Air Force, John Foden. Help is needed to continue the Ultrarunning History Podcast and website. Please consider becoming a patron of ultrarunning history. Help to preserve this history by signing up to contribute a few dollars each month through Patreon. Visit https://ultrarunninghistory.com/member Pheidippides’ Historic Run Battle of Marathon In 490 B.C., one of the most famous battles in world history was held between the Athenians and the Persians who invaded what we now call Greece, landing at Marathon. Before that battle, a professional messenger named Pheidippides was sent by Athenian generals to Sparta, with an urgent message to ask for reinforcements against the much larger Persian incursion. Pheidippides ran an estimated 250 kms (155 miles) and arrived at Sparta on the next day, likely about 36 hours, and then returned walking. There are many versions of this story. Some say his run was before the battle and others say after. One Romon version, more than a centry later, states that he ran back and he died on returning. But the important thing about the story for ultrarunning, is that Pheidippides made an ultra-distance run of about 155 miles in less than two days. If it were from dawn to dusk of the second day, that would have been 36 hours. The Spartan reinforcements did not immediately leave to help because of a festival and arrived too late for the Battle of Marathon, but the Athenians had triumphed over the more numerous Persians. People have wondered for years if the tale of Pheidippides could be true, running that difficult long distance across the rugged land in less than two days. John Foden His father James Foden John Boyd Foden (1926-2016) was born on May 7, 1926, in Winchester, Australia. His parents, also Australian, were James Clement Foden (1894-1978) and Rosalind Ida Boyd (1888-1957) of Scottish ancestry. The Fodens had lived in Australia for generations. John's father, James, was an aviator who learned to fly a biplane in Hendon, England, in 1917. James served during World War I in the Royal Flying Corps and was awarded the Air Force Cross. In 1924 he was promoted to a Flight Lieutenant. He made his career in the Royal Air Force and he retired a Group Captain. His love for aviation and the Royal Air Force was passed down to his son John. 1933 Ship passenger list Over the years, the Foden family would make multiple long sea voyages to Great Britain to visit family in England and Scotland. At the age of seven, John travelled to and from England by steam ship with his mother, his three-year-old sister, Pauline Margaret Foden, and his uncle, James Shields Boyd. Foden served in World War II as a paratrooper for Australia and after the war went to England. In 1948, at the age of 22, he married Vera Joan Colyer (1926-2001) of England. He later became a career officer in the Royal Air Force (RAF). In 1952, they had a son, David Michael Foden. Foden Takes Up Running The years passed and Foden continued his career in the RAF. By 1976, at the age of 49, he had taken up running. He belonged to the Veterans Athletic Club. In 1977, Foden ran in his first marathon. At that time, he was working as a flight instructor. He was assigned to teach cadets on various topics, including first aid, map reading, aircraft, and RAF knowledge. Herodotus In 1978, Foden was studying for an advanced degree at a...
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    87: The 100-miler: Part 27 (1979) – Old Dominion 100

    28:24

    By Davy Crockett You can read, listen, or watch The Old Dominion 100, established in 1979, was held in Virginia along the beautiful Shenandoah River. It was one of the first classic modern-era American trail 100-milers. Today, few ultrarunners have even heard about this race. Old Dominion 100’s origin story is similar to Western States 100. It also emerged from the horse endurance riding sport. The Old Dominion 100-mile Run patterned its practices from Western States, established two years earlier in 1977. Old Dominion 100 gave East Coast ultrarunners a trail 100-miler on their side of the country. Western States 100 claims it is the “world's oldest 100-mile trail race” (still being held), but technically Old Dominion 100 has legitimate rights to that claim because in those early years Western States was actually only 89 miles. Help is needed to continue the Ultrarunning History Podcast and website. Please consider becoming a patreon member of ultrarunning history. Help to preserve this history by signing up to contribute a few dollars each month. Visit https://ultrarunninghistory.com/member Alex Bigler Governor John Bigler Alexander Bowman Bigler Jr. was born Jun 8, 1935, in Merced, California. He played an important part in the history of Old Dominion 100.  He came from a very prominent California family. His great-grandfather, John Bigler, was California’s third governor. Lake Tahoe was almost named Lake Bigler. His grandfather, Alexander B. Bigler was an attorney and superior court judge in Santa Barbara County for many years. His father, Dr. Alexander B. Bigler (1904-1968) was a medical doctor and a civic leader in Madero County, California and had a keen interest in California history. Bigler grew up in Northern California and went to Chowchilla Union High School during the early 1950s. He then attended Stanford University and lived in Redwood City where his first wife taught school. Bigler had a love for horseback riding. In 1960 he was president of the Auburn Sierra Rangers, a horseman’s club that was organized in 1946 to further the interest in riding, breeding better horses, and putting on showmanship and recreation events.  Bigler became a close friend to Wendell Robie, the founder of the Western States Trail Ride (Tevis Cup) that in 1955 started to be held on the trail from Lake Tahoe to Auburn. Bigler became a big supporter of horse endurance rides. By 1961, public opinion came out against the Tevis Cup and its effect on horses, backed by the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. A few horses had died during the rides. Bigler, living in Auburn, vigorously defended the horse endurance event. He wrote, “To participate in this event, riders and horses must be in excellent condition. Both must be well-trained which is accomplished only through months of rigorous training. In proper training, the rider comes to know this horse and its capabilities and therefore will not drive it beyond its limit. This event is well-organized and veterinarians are located at check points to watch for overly exhausted horses. In my opinion this ride is an outstanding event in terms of both pleasure and a sporting activity and is contributing much to our knowledge and history of the horse.” In 1966 and 1967, Bigler rode in the Western States Trail Ride on a thoroughbred, Joaquin, and finished well, in 16:46 and 17:12. During the early 1970s he served as a member of the Board of Directors for the Western States Trail Ride. Old Dominion 100 Mile Ride By 1973, Bigler and his wife Ila moved to Northern Virginia, where he took a job that was involved in planning for equestrian facilities. He brought with him a desire to organize a ride similar to the Western States Trail Ride. He gathered together a small group of enthusiastic endurance riders to organize an event. A non-profit organization was incorporated under the name “Old Dominion 100 Mile Endurance Ride” with sev...
  • Ultrarunning History podcast

    86: Jackie Mekler (1932-2019) – Comrades Legend

    29:36

    By Davy Crockett You can read, listen, or watch Jackie Mekler from South Africa was perhaps the greatest ultrarunner in the world during the late 1950s and early 1960s and was a five-time winner of the Comrades Marathon (54 miles). His path to greatness is particularly inspiring because as a boy in an orphanage, he became a self-taught runner. He was boosted by fierce self-determination that grew out of his lonely and harsh childhood experience. The Comrades Marathon held in South Africa is the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon race that is still held today with fields that have topped 23,000 runners. The year 2021, marked the 100th anniversary of Comrades Marathon. Help is needed to continue the Ultrarunning History Podcast and website. Please consider becoming a patreon member of ultrarunning history. Help to preserve this history by signing up to contribute a few dollars each month. Visit https://ultrarunninghistory.com/member This episode on Jackie Mekler is the sixth part of a series honoring Comrades and South African ultrarunning. 80: Comrades Marathon – 100 years old 59: Arthur Newton 83: Hardy Ballington – The Forgotten Great Ultrarunner 84: Wally Hayward (1908-2006) – South African Legend 85: Mavis Hutchison – Galloping Granny 86: Jackie Mekler - Comrades Legend This episode is largely based on Jackie Mekler's autobiography Running Alone: The autobiography of long-distance runner Jackie Mekler where you can read far more details about his running career. Childhood  Jakie's mother with sister Hannah Jack “Jackie” Mekler was born March 4, 1932, in Johannesburg, South Africa. His parents, Mike and Sonia Mekler emigrated to South Africa from Eastern Europe in the 1920s with little more than the clothing on their backs. His father had studied to become a dental mechanic but was unable to find employment and the young couple struggled to survive financially. Children were born, first Hannah and then Jackie. Bertrams suburb of Johannesburg in 1930s The Meklers first lived in a large room with family friends in Bertrams, a Johannesburg suburb, A few years later, there were able to afford buying a fairly new home nearby. Sadly, Jackie’s mother, a nurse, developed Parkinson’s disease that crippled her requiring the young children to care for her. His father worked long hours selling fruit from the back of a horse-drawn cart trying to support the young family. Jackie wrote, “Physically, I was always small and underweight for my age – facts that caused my parents considerable concern in my preschool years. I remember regular visits to the local hospital, where I was put on innumerable courses of ‘pink pills’ and tonics.” Jackie’s obsessive personality started to show through when as a child he would spend hours kicking a soccer ball against a wall, humming a tune about soccer boots. In the summer months he would rush home from school and loved to go off to the local municipal baths at Ellis Park to swim. Life at an Orphanage When red-headed Jackie was nine years old, his mother became so ill that she needed to be sent to a nursing home. His father just couldn’t deal with raising children and also working long hours, so he decided to send Jackie and Hannah to live at the Arcadia orphanage. Jackie came home from school one day to find a large black sedan parked in front of their house waiting to take them to the orphanage. The two children cried and argued with their father, who bribed them with a half a crown each if they agreed to go. They no choice and moved into the orphanage.  A couple weeks later their father visited with news that their mother had died. Arcadia Orphanage Arcadia was a Jewish orphanage that was established at a villa in 1923. Jackie Mekler was required to participate in Jewish rituals and rules which was a major adjustment for him.  There were about 300 children who lived in large dormitories,
  • Ultrarunning History podcast

    85: Mavis Hutchison – The Galloping Granny

    28:24

    By Davy Crockett You can read, listen, or watch The Comrades Marathon (about 55 miles), held in South Africa, is the world’s largest and oldest ultramarathon race that is still held today with fields that have topped 23,000 runners. The year 2021, marked the 100th anniversary of Comrades Marathon. This episode on Marvis Hutchison is the fourth part of a series honoring Comrades and South African ultrarunning. 80: Comrades Marathon - 100 years old 83: Hardy Ballington - The Forgotten Great Ultrarunner 84: Wally Hayward (1908-2006) - South African Legend 85: Mavis Hutchison – Galloping Granny Mavis Hutchison was a pioneer ultrarunner from South Africa who blazed the trail for women runners worldwide. She finished Comrades eight times in years when very few women ran. She had an impressive ultrarunning career that took her to many countries and she went on to become one of the most popular women in South Africa. This episode is largely based on the research and interviews conducted by Dave and Gillene Laney, contained their excellent biography published in 2012: Unstoppable Woman: The Forgotten Story of Mavis Hutchison -- First Woman to Run Across America and also Mavis Hutchison's blog and other resources. Help is needed to continue the Ultrarunning History Podcast and website. Please consider becoming a patreon member of ultrarunning history. You can become part of the effort to preserve and document this history by signing up to contribute a few dollars each month. Visit https://ultrarunninghistory.com/member Childhood Mavis Vaugn and her identical twin sister, Doreen, were born on November 24, 1924, in Kimberley, South Africa to George Phillipus Vaughan (1895-1969) and Catharina “Kitty” Barnard Vaughan (1900-1996).  The Vaughan family had lived in South Africa for multiple generations. There hometown city of Kimberley was the capital of South Africa’s Northern Cape Province and known for its diamond mines, and "the biggest manmade hole on earth." Mavis’ father. George was one of the top middle-distance runners in South Africa and a rugby player. He worked for a diamond mining company. Sadly, both twin girls had defects in their legs. Doreen had a damaged hip causing her to limp through life and Mavis had a leg that was somewhat “slow.” After contracting rhematic fever as a child, Mavis suffered from nervous breakdowns during her teens requiring hospitalization and was unable to walk or talk for a time. She had to relearn those skills and those breakdowns left her feeling fragile. While a teenager, Mavis really wanted to be a good athlete. Her father had been training girls at her school, so she joined in. She said, "I started out full of enthusiasm. I seemed to be getting nowhere fast. I told myself that if I did not have instant success I would never get there. I found excuses to give up. I believe my dad was disappointed, but he never forced me. I restarted a few times but ended the same each time a failure." Mavis and her mother in 1980 Because of her poor health, her schooling suffered, and she never graduated from high school. World War II arrived, and she worked at the government mint in her hometown making tools for the manufacture of weapons. She wanted to join the Army but her father would not give consent. He gave her good advice and always emphasized that she needed to be nice to others but should also stand up for herself. He wanted her to work hard but take time to smell the roses.  Of her mother, she said, “My mom was a very private person, but some things did rub off and what rubbed off on me most was about going the extra mile, working hard, being not just a starter but a finisher, and being there for one another.” Troubled Marriage Mavis sought for more independence and when she was twenty-two, she married a man who turned out to be a heavy drinker bringing misery and abuse into her life.

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