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Ultrarunning History

A podcast about Ultrarunning History

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2: Man vs. Horse

By Davy Crockett Both a podcast and a full article(listen to the podcast episode which also includes a bonus 100-mile treadmill story)Man vs Horse race held in 1929 at the Philadelphia ArenaFor more than two centuries, people have debated if humans on foot could beat horses. Those on the side of humans argued that over a long enough distance, human beings could outrun horses. It has been contended that humans are capable of covering vast distances after the horse becomes winded and unable to continue.To try to prove this point, ultradistance races billed as “Man vs. Horse” were competed as early as 1879. But it was a 157-mile "man vs. horse" race held in Utah, in 1957-58. that captured the attention of America and beyond.Please help support this podcast. I’ve joined a partnership with Ultrarunning Magazine. I can offer a 25% discount on Ultrarunning Magazine subscriptions and renewals. Visit https://ultrarunning.com/ultrarunning-history/  Subscribe or renew today.19th Century In 1818 at Feltham, Hertfordshire, England, a Mr. J Barnett, a pedestrian of Feltham, took on a bet for 200 guineas that he could beat a fast horse in a 48-hour race. The horse carried 168 pounds. The horse went out fast and reached 90 miles in 13 hours, stopping to feed only twice. After 24 hours, the score was horse: 118 miles, Barnett: 82 miles.  After 48 hours the horse won, 179 miles to 158 miles. It was believed that the horse could have only gone a few more miles if the race was for another day.In January 1879, George Guyon of Canada, an elite pedestrian, and later the 6-day world champion that year, raced against a stallion, “Hesing Jr.” for 52 hours in Chicago. George reached 149 miles, but the horse covered 201 miles despite the small track in the Exposition Building with sharp turns. The Chicago Tribune stated, “It was the first time in a long journey that a horse had defeated a man.” The horse took long rests totaling 24.5 hours. Reasons given for Guyon’s defeat was that he wasn’t feeling well and “the cold air of the building affected him to such an extent that during the last 24 hours of the contest he was unable to do himself justice.”Later in 1879 two of the greatest pedestrians in history, Edward Payson Weston (1839–1929) and Daniel O’Leary (1841-1933) discussed the previous event and speculated how a man would do against a horse in a 6-day event. They disagreed on this subject. O’Leary believed that horses would win, Weston was on the side of humans. To settle the debate, a race was held in San Francisco beginning on October 15, 1879, with seven men against eleven horses on a track at Mechanics’ Pavilion. A horse named Pinafore won with 557 miles, but there were no truly elite runners/walkers in the event.Weston and O'LearyWeston was still unconvinced, so O’Leary put on another 6.5-day event in Chicago starting on September 5, 1880. It was held at the Haverly tent on the lake shore and included prize money of $3,000. Fifteen men and five horses competed. There was a crowd of four thousand spectators on hand for the first day. The runners started off on a six-minute-mile pace and the horses were clocking eight-minute-miles early on. After the first day the leading horse had reached 130 miles and the leading man, 117. When 48-hours was reached, the top horse, Speculator, had reached 220 miles. The top man was at 195 miles, but he would quit at 200 miles with a swollen face.Five days in, Michael J. Byrne of Buffalo, New York took the lead. On the last day Speculator had regained the lead but sadly died while resting in his stable. Byrne also suffered during the later stages. “He began to bleed at the nose and fell down in a fainting fit and was carried into the tent amid a chorus of ‘ohs’ from the ladies. It took half an hour to revive him, and when he came out again he had lost five miles besides being very stiff and sore.” The leading horse was a black mare named Betsy Baker...


31 Jul 2018

Rank #1

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5: Crossing the Grand Canyon

By Davy Crockett Both a podcast and a full article(Listen to the podcast episode which includes the bonus story about my love for the Grand Canyon, and the 1,000 miles I've run down in it.)Crossing the Grand Canyon on foot is something many visitors of the spectacular Canyon wonder about as they gaze across its great expanse to the distant rim. Crossing the Canyon and returning back is an activity that has taken place for more than 125 years. Each year thousands of people cross the famous canyon and many of them, return the same day, experiencing what has been called for decades as a “double crossing,” and in more recent years, a "rim-to-rim-to-rim."In 1891, crossings of the Grand Canyon using rough trails on both sides of the Colorado River, in the "corridor" area, were mostly accomplished by miners and hunters.  Double crossing hikes, in less than 24 hours started as early as 1949. More were accomplished in the 1960s and they started to become popular in the mid-1970s. Formal races, for both single and double crossings, while banned today, are part of ultrarunning history. This article tells the story of many of these early crossings and includes the creaton of the trails, bridges, Phantom Ranch, and the water pipeline Grand Canyon Today - note the datesIntroductionFor those who have not yet had the experience of crossing the Grand Canyon, this overview will help understand the history.  Today if you hike or run across the Grand Canyon you have choices.  You can start from the South Rim or from the North Rim. It depends where you are traveling from. A South start is more common. On the South side, you can use either the Bright Angel Trail from Grand Canyon Village, or the South Kaibab Trail that starts a few miles to the east, using a shuttle to Yaki Point. On the North side, the North Kaibab Trail is used. These are the main trails into the Grand Canyon and referred to as the "Corridor Trails," used by the masses and mule trains. There are two bridges along the Corridor to cross the Colorado River, Black Bridge (used by mules and South Kaibab Trail) or Silver Bridge (Bright Angel Trail).When this history story starts, there was no Grand Canyon Village, no Phantom Ranch at the bottom, and these trails didn't exist. There were few visitors to either Rim because they lacked roads and there were no automobiles yet.  It is believed that Native Americans crossed the Canyon for centuries in many locations up and down the canyon and early miners used many places to cross, including the Bass location. I have run double crossings using the Grandview Trail (twice) and Hermit Trail, so there are many possibilities. This article will concentrate on the corridor region near Grand Canyon Village where most modern crossings are taking place.Creation of Bright Angel Trail (South Side)South Rim about 1890The upper part of Bright Angel Trail, coming down from the South Rim, was originally a route used by the Havasupai to access Garden Creek, 3,000 feet below. In 1887, Ralph Cameron (1863-1953), future US senator for Arizona, prospected and believed he found copper and gold near Indian Garden. The original idea for a trail was for mining. Work began on December 24, 1890 and it would take 12 years to complete. In 1891 Peter D. Berry (1856-1932) obtained rights for the trail, including collecting tolls.By 1892 it was called the “Bright Angel Trail.” It cost about $100,000, and at its height was worked on by 100 men. How did the trail get its name? This is a subject of legend and folklore. One story was told by "Captain" John Hance (1840-1919) who came to live at the canyon in about 1883 and was famous for his stories and yarns about the canyon. He said that a beautiful girl who the men thought looked like an angel came to stay at the canyon who would descend often down the trail. One day she never came back up and wasn't seen again. The truth is that John Wesley Powell (1834-1902) named the creek ...


30 Aug 2018

Rank #2

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19: Barkley Marathons – The Birth

By Davy Crockett Both a podcast episode and a full articleThe famous prison and the start gateThe Barkley Marathons, with its historic low finish rate (only 15 runners in 30 years), is perhaps the most difficult ultramarathon trail race in the world. It is held in and near Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee, with a distance of more than 100 miles.The Barkley is an event with a mysterious lore. It has no official website. It is a mystery how to enter, It has no course map or entrants list is published online. It isn't a spectator event. For the 2018 race, 1,300 runners applied and only 40 selected.Those seeking entry must submit an essay. The entrance fee includes bringing a license plate from your home state/country. Runners are given the course directions the day before the race and aren't told when the race exactly starts. They are just given a one-hour warning when the conch is blown. To prove that they run the course correctly, books are placed a various places on the course where the runners must tear out a page from each book matching their bib number. If they lose a page or miss a book, they are out. Directly opposite of most ultras, the course is specifically designed to minimize the number of finishers.The inspiration for creating the Barkley in 1986 was the 1977 prison escape by James Earl Ray from Brushy Mountain State Prison. Ray was the convicted assassin of Martin Luther King Jr. He spent more than two days trying to get away in the very rugged Cumberland Mountains where the Barkley later was established. Ray's escape has been a subject of folklore. This article will reveal the details of his escape, where he went, what he did, and why he was only found a few miles from the prison.This is how the madness of the Barkley Marathons started...Please help support this website and podcast. I’ve joined a partnership with Ultrarunning Magazine. I can offer a 25% discount on Ultrarunning Magazine subscriptions and renewals. Visit https://ultrarunning.com/ultrarunning-history/  Subscribe or renew today.Gary Cantrell (Lazarus Lake)In 1978, Gary Cantrell (later also became known as Lazarus Lake), was an accounting student at Middle Tennessee State University. He was a tough marathon runner with eight finishes to his name at that time. He even finished one marathon after shotgun pellets struck him in the legs during a race. (It turned out that there were some hunters in nearby woods shooting quail).Cantrell was interested in stepping up to run an ultramarathon, so in 1979, he and his fellow “Horse Mountain Runners” created their own ultra to run, Strolling Jim 40-mile Run in Wartrace, Tennessee. It was named after a famed horse, and became one of the oldest yearly ultras in the country. This was Cantrell’s first experience at creating a tough race. He said, “Six or eight doctors will be in the race and that sort of surprised me. You’d think of all people they’d know better.”Cantrell’s masochistic race directing skills were further honed when in 1981 he put together “The Idiot’s Run” in Shelbyville, Tennessee consisting of 76 miles and 37 significant hills. He was surprised when a number of runners expressed interest. He said, “Is there no run so tough as to discourage these maniacs? If we had a 250 miler through Hell with no fluids allowed, I think we’d get 10-15 people.” A dozen runners showed up for The Idiot’s Run and only two finished.The next year, 1982, he extended “The Idiot’s Run” course length to 108 miles and eliminated flat sections, gaining experience adjusting courses each year to make them harder. Cantrell explained, “The objective isn’t so much to see who finishes first as to simply see who survives for the longest distance. I’m confident this is the single grimmest race held anywhere in the world.” An article about his race was printed in newspapers across the country. Six of the twelve starters finished that year, the winner in 17:43:45,


22 Mar 2019

Rank #3

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38: Around the World on Foot – Part 1 (1875-1895)

By Davy Crockett In 1873, Jules Verne published his classic adventure novel, Around the World in 80 Days, which captivated imaginations of the possibility of traveling around the world in a given time and the wonders that could be seen.Also at that time, Pedestrianism, competitive walking, was in its heyday. Starting in 1875 individuals began to discuss if it would be possible to somehow walk around the world. Wagers were made and attempts began. They had no true idea how far it was or how long it would take. It wouldn’t be until more than 100 years later that some guidelines would be established for those who truly wished to walk around the world.Yes, such an activity was real and still is today. How far is it to walk around the world? Today the World Runners Association has set a standard that it must be at least 16,308 miles. Early pedestrians were estimating that it would be between 14,000-18,000 miles. Today the fastest known recognized time is 434 days returning to the point of origin.It all started in earnest around 1875. During that year, circumnavigation ultrawalkers emerged along along with frauds who fooled the public to win wagers and made a living off giving lectures about their "walk." Most American transcontinental walks of the 1800s involved fraud and fabrication. Some examples are covered in: "Dakota Bob - Transcontinental Walker." The same was true for most early attempts to circle the globe on foot, but their tales are still fascinating. This multi-part article will share the stories and make some corrections on false claims that have been published in many books.Corporal Lediard - 1786The earliest known attempt was made more than 230 years ago. During the winter of 1786-87 an English marine corporal named Lediard, an American by birth, started from London with the plan of walking around the globe, or going as far as possible. He planned to cross Europe and Asia, and then be ferried across the Bering Straight to North America, continue to New York and return to England. A sum of $250 was raised for him and he started out. He walked to Hamburg Germany, to St. Petersburg, Russia, and continued into Siberia as far as the city of Yakutsk where he stopped for the winter of 1787-88.But in January 1788, he was arrested by the order of the Empress of Russia. "In half an hour's time, he was carried away under the guard of two soldiers and an officer, in a post sledge (sled) for Moscow, without his clothes, money, and papers and then taken back to St. Petersburg." He was expelled from Russian, sent to Poland with orders not to return to Russia, and thus his walk around the world was foiled. "During all this time, he suffered the greatest hardships, from sickness, fatigue and want of rest, so that he was almost reduced to a skeleton. He said it had been a miserable journey but was very disappointed to not achieve his daring enterprise."Christian Frederick Schaefer - 1866Christian Frederick Schaefer was a German who spent much of his entire life traveling. In 1866, about the age of 30, he said that he had been traveling the world for the previous 15 years.  He reached Kansas and it was reported, "He has visited nearly all countries in Europe, Asia and Africa and is now en route to the Pacific coast. He estimates that he has traveled over 68,000 miles on foot. He has passports in fifteen different languages and his autograph book contains recommendations and signatures of a large number of the most distinguished men in this country and in Europe. He is a small man and has been suffering since his birth with a deformity of the spine. But he has unbounded energy and perseverance, is thoroughly impressed with the idea of making a tour around the world, and will succeed." His autographs included Andrew Johnson, Ulysses M. Grant, and Brigham Young. After crossing America he claimed to go across China and to Singapore. It 1867 he made it to Australia.In 1882,


11 Nov 2019

Rank #4

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28: Western States 100 – Legends, Myths, and Folklore

By Davy Crockett Dick Mendenhall runs in the 1977 Western States 100The establishment of the Western States Endurance Run (Western States 100) in 1977 was one of the most important pivotal events in the history of ultrarunning. During the next decade the existing ultrarunning sport experienced a major shift from roads and tracks to trails and mountains. Other 100-mile races were spawned from the Western States 100, patterning their mountain race formats and practices after those established by Western States. A new generation of ultrarunners came into the sport and the Western States Endurance Run became the most famous mountain trail 100-miler.Western States validly proclaims that it owns 100-mile racing’s richest and most compelling history. “Western States has been home to some of the sport’s most stirring and legendary competitions and has spurred the capacity of spirit of all runners, of all abilities and from all walks of life, from all over the globe. Western States remains one of the undisputed crown jewels of human endurance.”With such a rich and long history that has been told and retold over the years, it is not surprising that folklore has crept in, and historic errors introduced by mistake or on purpose, making the legend of Western States and its origin story even more compelling. With the establishment of the Internet and social media, much like the “telephone game” myths have been told and retold.The Western States Endurance Run grew out of the Western States Endurance Ride in the Sierras, in California. That equestrian event also has quite a bit of folklore attached to it. But this fact is clear, there would not have been a Run if the Ride had not existed. The riders who were organizers of the run had the experience and wisdom to establish the Western State Endurance Run.I thought it would be interesting and helpful to look at many of these myths and some clarifying truths about the origin story of both the Western States Trail Ride and Western States Endurance Run.  Major events like these, at times approach "mythical" status and place too much credit on certain individuals, pushing aside heritage and others who paved the way for these historical events to take place. The intent of this episode it to have some fun looking at the facts and get the reader thinking about history.Myth #1: The Western States Trail runs all the way to Salt Lake City, UtahWestern States 100 runs on the historic Western States Trail. The Western States website and other websites erroneously state that the Western States Trail extends all the way from Salt Lake City, Utah. It does not and never did. The trail that crosses the desert of Nevada is the California Trail. In Western Nevada there were branches off the California trail to various gold field destinations or settlements. The main routes initially (1846–48) were the Truckee Trail to the Sacramento Valley and after about 1849 the Carson Trail route to the American River and to the Pacerville gold diggings. There was no route called the Western States Trail in the 1800s. But a route did exist, used primarily by gold miners, that went from Lake Tahoe to Auburn, California. This segment came to be named “Western States Trail” in 1956 by Wendell Robie (1895-1984), a horseman and businessman who founded both the Ride and the Run. Prior to that, since 1930, the route was called the “Auburn-Lake Tahoe Riding Trail.”Myth #2: Wendell Robie researched and discovered the Western States TrailBob Watson on the Auburn-Lake Tahoe TrailWho rediscovered this mining and emigrant trail? Another person did this. He has been mostly forgotten and not mentioned in most histories about Western States. During early 1930, Robert Montgomery Watson (1854-1932), a Lake Tahoe lawman, located and mapped out the old emigrant/miner road that was used before the railroad arrived. He also constructed the granite monument near Emigrant Pass.


21 Jun 2019

Rank #5

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29: The Tarahumara Ultrarunners

By Davy Crockett In recent years, the story of the amazing Tarahumara (Rarámuri) runners from Mexico exploded into international attention with the publication of Christopher McDougall’s best-selling 2009 book, Born to Run. Runners everywhere in 2009 naively tossed their shoes aside for a while and wanted to run like these ancient native Americans from hidden high sierra canyons in Chihuahua, Mexico. Many other runners left the marathon distance behind, sought to run ultramarathons, and dreamed about running the Leadville 100, which exploded with new entrants.Readers of Born to Run think that the Tarahumara Indians made their debut running in America in 1992. Born to Run features their 1994 race at Leadville, Colorado. It has been claimed that this was the first time that this indigenous people showed up to run outside their native environs. This is not true. Yes, the Tarahumara competed in America, in 1992, but it was not the first time that they displayed their running abilities in the United States. The Tarahumara competed in America more than six decades earlier when they made an even deeper impact on ultrarunning history.The story of the Tarahumara was only half told by Christopher McDougall. Their early running stories have been forgotten and need to be retold. This is the story of the Tarahumara before Born to Run.Please help support this podcast. I’ve joined a partnership with Ultrarunning Magazine. I can offer a 25% discount on Ultrarunning Magazine subscriptions and renewals. Visit https://ultrarunning.com/ultrarunning-history/  Subscribe or renew today.The Tarahumara are introduced to AmericaTarahumara in 1892Frederick SchwatkaIn 1889, America was first introduced to the Tarahumara by an American exploring expedition that traveled through Mexico and published a long facinating multi-part article in many newspapers. The author, explorer, Frederkick Schwatka (1849-1892) wrote,"The Tarahumari tribe of Indians are not at all well-known, for I doubt if one reader in a thousand of this article have ever heard of them. The savage Tarahumari lives generally off all lines of communication, shunning even the mountain mule trails if they can. His abode is a cave in the mountain-side or under the curving of some huge boulder on the ground."Schwartka gave a brief mention of the Tarahumara running abilities, "In the depth of winter, with snow on the ground, the Tarahumari hunter, with nothing on but his rawhide sandals and a breech-clout, will start in pursuit of a deer and run it down after a chase of hours in length, the thin crust of snow impeding the animal so that it finally succumbs to its persistent enemy.'Carl Sofus LumholtzNorwegian explorer Carl Sofus Lumholtz (1851-1922) lived among the Tarahumara for more than a year. In 1894 he published a book, In the Land of Cave and Cliff Dwellers and lectured to American Geographical Society about the people. "Mr. Lumholtz found the Turahumari unyieldingly opposed to the use of his camera on them until the fortunate day arrived when his photographing was followed by much-needed rain. Ever after the use of the "rain maker," as the camera then came to be known, was sought as a favor." He mentioned about "their fondness for extensive foot contests, of which careful account is kept by a simple system of stone counters."But it wasn't until 1905 that America started to have a true fascination with the Tarahumara Indians. Articles appeared across the country telling tales of “the most interesting tribe in the world.” They were described at that time as being a “savage” people of about 30,000 who seemed to be untouched by modern civilization and lived in the northern portion of the Mexican Sierra Madres.The Tarahumara were thought to be the only tribe on the American continent who still made homes in hillside caves similar to the cliff-dwelling ancient Anasazi found in the southwest United States.


3 Jul 2019

Rank #6

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20: Barkley Marathons – First Few Years

By Davy Crockett Both a podcast episode and a full articleThe Barkley Marathons, the toughest trail race in the world, is held in and near Frozen Head State Park in Tennessee, with a distance of more than 100 miles. The first year it was held was in 1986, and it is now world famous. Only 40 runners are selected to run.Barkley is the brain child of Gary Cantrell (Lazarus Lake) and Karl Henn (Raw Dog).  In 1985, they had been intrigued by the very few miles that James Earl Ray had covered back in 1977 during his 54.5-hour prison escape in the mountains.  Cantrell felt that he could do much better.  See Barkley Marathons – The BirthThat year Cantrell and Henn went up into that wilderness to backpack, in two days, the “boundary trail,” about 20 miles, constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps decades earlier. Four people died building the trail. When they showed the rangers their route around the park, they were told that they wouldn’t be able to make it. The rangers didn’t want them to go on the hike because they didn’t want to have to rescue them. But the rangers were convinced to give them a permit. The first 7.5 miles took the two ten hours to cover.They did finish their backpack trip and told the rangers that they had some friends who would probably like to run the trail. The idea for Barkley had been hatched and a course was designed and plans put into to for the first year of the Barkley in 1986 at Frozen Head State Park.  Cantrell later said, “The best description of the course I’ve heard? Someone told me that every ultra has its signature hill, the nasty one that’s totally unreasonable and makes or breaks the race—the Barkley is like all those hills just put end on end.”Please help support this podcast. I’ve joined a partnership with Ultrarunning Magazine. I can offer a 25% discount on Ultrarunning Magazine subscriptions and renewals. Visit https://ultrarunning.com/ultrarunning-history/  Subscribe or renew today.Frozen Head State ParkCCC Dynamite shackIn 1933, the Tennessee Governor set aside a large portion of the Brushy Mountain State Prison’s lands to establish the Morgan State Forest. That year the Civilian Conservation Corps came and constructed roads, facilities, and some trails that Barkley uses today including the Boundary Trail. The CCC worked for multiple years. Rattlesnakes and all the prison escapes taking place every year made it difficult to establish a camp in the forest until 1938. In 1952 a large portion of the forest was burned and prison inmates were used to fight the fire. In about 1970 the Frozen Head State Park was established.One of the unknown heroes of the Barkley is Don Todd (1918-2005) of Wartburg, Tennessee. He was active since the 1960s in an effort to protect the area that became Frozen Head State Park. Since the 60s he led wildflower-spotting hikes within the park to acquaint others with its diversity of plants and animals.Don ToddTodd pushed to have nine square miles around Frozen Head declared unsuitable for coal mining and helped stop plans for a huge strip mine on Frozen Head which would have been visible from 80% of the trails within the park. Thankfully that didn’t happen and Todd was proud that the park looks pretty much the way it did when “the first white men came.”  He said, ”it’s something I put value on trying to improve the quality of life in the mountains a little bit. In 1985 he was awarded the Gulf Conservation Award for his efforts.Coal strip mining was a constant worry for the area. In 1971 a coordinated effort gathered petitions and fought to not allow state land close to the park  to be sold off to potential strip miners. In 1973 a state bill was introduced to prevent strip-mining of 2,500 acres of coal land near Frozen Head. But strip mining was a constant threat to the park.In 1978 a public hearing was held in Wartburg about doing strip mining on Bird Mountain,


30 Mar 2019

Rank #7

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47: Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim History – Part 2 (1928-1964)

By Davy Crockett This is the second part of the Rim-to Rim story. Read/Listen/Watch to Part 1 here.Descending down into the inner Grand Canyon is an experience you never forget. Part one covered the very early history of crossing the Canyon from 1890-1928. Trails that could accommodate tourists were built, including Bight Angel and South Kaibab trails coming down the South Rim. A tourist in 1928 explained, "the Kaibab trail is a fine piece of work, easy grade, wide and smooth, while the Bright Angel trail still belongs to the local county and is maintained by it, and is steep, narrow and poorly kept up. Each person going down Bright Angel pays a toll of one dollar." There was no River Trail yet, so those who came down the Bright Angel Trail used the Tonto Trail at Indian Garden to connect to the South Kaibab Trail. "The Tonto trail was perfectly safe and the scenic views were wonderful."Phantom Ranch was established in the early 1900s. The same tourist continued, "It is beautiful down here now in the dusk with the towering cliffs above and a mountain brook singing along in front of my cabin, and the weather at least 20 degrees warmer than up on the rim, where the ground is covered with snow. After a hearty, well-cooked beefsteak dinner, I am settled in a one-room, stone walled, cement floored cabin, with a roaring fire in a cute corner open fireplace."The North Kaibab trail coming down from the North Rim was completed in 1928.  The steep, rough Old Bright Angel Trail coming down the North Rim was abandoned and today is an unmaintained rugged route.  A scary swinging suspension bridge spanned the Colorado River, bringing tourists over to Phantom Ranch. Multi-day rim-to-rim hikes had begun both from the North Rim and the South Rim. How all this came to be by 1928 is told in Part One. If you have not read, listened to, or watched Part One first, you should.Black BridgeOn the Swinging Suspension BridgeIn 1926. nearly 23,000 automobiles entered the park, bringing 140,000 visitors. As tourist traffic continued to increase to Phantom Ranch, a new bridge was needed. The swinging suspension bridge that was constructed in 1921 was nearly impossible to cross when it was windy. High winds had capsized it more than once. "In using the old swinging bridge, it was necessary for tourist parties to dismount in crossing, the animals being taken over one at a time. This caused congestion and delay at one of the hottest points on the trans-canyon trip." One visitor mentioned, "We crossed the Colorado river on a frail looking bridge, one mule at a time only, rider unmounted, and the bridge waving up and down under the weight. Having gained so much weight since leaving home, I was obliged to cross considerably in advance of my mule."Bringing down a main cableIn 1927, $48,000 was quickly appropriated for a new bridge to connect the two Kaibab trails. Construction began on a new bridge on March 9, 1928 with nine laborers who established their camp on the confluence with Bright Angel Creek. The crew soon grew to twenty. All of the 122 tons of structural materials were brought down into the canyon on mules except for the massive four main support cables. Forty-two men, mostly Havasupai Indian workers, spaced 15 feet apart, carried the huge 550-foot main bridge support cables down the South Kaibab Trail on their shoulders, about fifty pounds per man. Each of the four cables weighed 2,154 pounds.Bringing down a wind cable“When they got to the bottom of the canyon, after getting rid of the cable, they went down onto a flat, gathered brush, made sort of a trench of it, and placed big boulders on the brush. Then they set fire to it. After the fire died down, they spread their blankets over a wooden frame that they had constructed, doused the rocks and live coals with water, and walked through this tunnel of blankets getting steam baths and then jumped into the muddy Colorado River.”


9 Feb 2020

Rank #8

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42: Around the World on Foot – Part 5 – Dumitru Dan

By Davy Crockett During the early 1900s, hundreds of people were claiming falsely that they were walking around the world and were given free room and board by the trusting public as they came into towns. Nearly every “around the world on foot” walker mentioned a wager as their motivation for making the attempt, similar to  Jules Verne’s Phileas Fogg’s wager in his 1872 novel “Around the World in 80 Days.” More than 95% of these globetrotters made claims that were false.Beginning about 1904, a new twist emerged. A few of the globetrotters claimed that they were part of a race or competition with others to be the first to circle the globe on foot within a certain period. Such a competitive event created a stir of interest when walkers came into town. Wow, it sounded like the  modern-day “Amazing Race” reality show.One common thread involving these race claims was that they were organized by the “Touring Club de France.” Did this organization really get involved in Pedestrian races? One participant in such a  race was a famous Romanian globetrotter, Dumitru Dan. Numerous articles about him in recent years claim that he was the first person to walk around the world and he is considered a Romanian local hero. Was he truly a participant of a race and did he really walk 62,000 miles around the world as he claimed? For the first time, this will be examined closely. First I will analyze carefully Dumitru Dan's walking story which he sadly fabricated. It was not true. Then I will examine the similar false race tales of others.Please help support this podcast. I’ve joined a partnership with Ultrarunning Magazine. I can offer a 25% discount on Ultrarunning Magazine subscriptions and renewals. Visit https://ultrarunning.com/ultrarunning-history/  Subscribe or renew today.The Touring Club de FranceThe Touring Club de France (TCF) was established in 1890 as a French social club devoted to travel. It was founded by cyclists, inspired by a similar club, the British Cyclist’ Touring Club founded two decades earlier. Originally the club was relatively small with about 3,000 members, but after 15 years had grown to nearly 75.000. By 1900 the club was also promoting “automobilism.” The club, headquartered in Paris, published an annual journal about places of interest in Europe and the condition of roads. By 1910 they had spent more than four million dollars on improving roads and putting up road signs in France. It also offered many annual prizes to encourage planting and the preservation of trees. Organizing races was not part of their mission.Dumitru Dan - Romanian globetrotterDumitru Dan (1890-1979) was from Buzau, Romania and eventually became a recognized hero in his city. Some believe he was the first person to walk around the globe and in 1978, he was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records. Decades after his walk, a reporter tape-recorded an interview with Dumitru Dan, and he gave a detailed story of his historic walk. His memoirs given late in his life was the main source for the details of his travels. In addition, there were 1914-1915 newspapers articles from America and Europe, along with some surviving certificates that tell a much different tale than Dumitru Dan's personal story. Most biographers for Dumitru Dan have believed everything he stated in his lectures and the interview/journal, without doing any fact-checking.I realize that some people will not be happy with my story and its analysis. For all the dozens of “around the world on foot” walkers I’ve analyzed, I first assume they are legitimate, and then analyze the evidence left behind, trying to prove that they were authentic efforts. I treated this story carefully, realizing it is about a recognized hero. Prepare yourself, most of his story was fiction.The Touring Club de France competitionDumitru Dan claimed in his story given decades later that in 1908, the Touring Club de France announced a six-year “aroun...


16 Dec 2019

Rank #9

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6: The Last Day Run (1965-1972)

By Davy Crockett Both a podcast and a full article(Listen to the podcast episode which includes the bonus story about the origin of the Pony Express Trail Run).Runners seen through the window running 1970 Last Day RunFor the common man, we frequently make history without knowing it at the time. As years pass, one can look back and discover that certain events, which at the time seemed insignificant, actually played an important part of history. Such events weren’t forgotten or pushed aside, their stories just had not been told.  Such is the case with the “Last Day Run.”Ultrarunning existing in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The participants were mostly professionals who performed for spectators. As the Great Depression hit, events for professional ultrarunners dwindled and dried up in America. But rising from the tragedy and ashes of World War II, ultrarunning events slowing appeared again, but this time for amateurs looking to test their endurance.  They were first hiking events such as the Padre Island Walkathon (110 miles) of the 1950s in Texas, and the JFK 50 starting in 1963 in Maryland. But soon running events surfaced and the term "ultramarathon" was first used around 1964.Absent in the pages of very early American ultrarunning history is the story of the “Last Day Run.”The Los Angeles Athletic ClubThe Los Angeles Athletic ClubThe Los Angeles Athletic Club (LAAC) was established in 1880, the first private club in the city. Monthly dues were $1 per month that first year. In 1912 the club’s new home was established downtown in a 12-story building with an indoor swimming pool on its upper floor which caused quite a stir. In the 1950s the downtown club was modernized and by the 1960s an indoor, 165-yard rubber tartan track was built on the 7th floor. The indoor track would be the site of 1960’s ultrarunning history.Steve SeymourSteve Seymour (front) receives the Olympic silver medal in 1948Steve Seymour (1920-1973), was an elite javelin thrower. He spent 1946 in Finland training with that nation’s world-class throwers. In 1947, he established an American record of 75.80 meters, within ten feet of the world record, which opened the door for him to compete at the 1948 Olympics where he was awarded the silver medal. In 1950 Steve achieved his third national championship in the event and in 1951 he was the silver medalist in the Pan American Games. Steve became a physician. He practiced as an osteopath and also operated a clinic for alcoholics. In 1965 Dr. Seymour didn't realize it, but he became an American ultrarunner pioneer as a long-time influential member of the Los Angeles Athletic Club.The LAAC logoThe Last Day Run BeginsThe year was 1965. Steve Seymour arranged to put on a 24-hour race at the indoor Los Angeles Athletic Club. It was called the “24-hour Last Day Run” and was held on Halloween. This event was very significant to American ultrarunning history for many reasons, the first being that it is believed to be the first modern-day American 24-hour race. Steve started the enthusiasm for this event by participating in it and going the furthest distance. It all started at 12:00 a.m., early on October 31, 1965. Steve ran 50 miles in 17.5 hours.Why was it held on Halloween, and why was it called “Last Day Run?” The event was called “Last Day” because it was associated with of an annual 30-day “jog” competition that originated in California. This event was established in 1964 by the Olympic Club of San Francisco. Runners would run for 30 days in October. The club would award trophies to the running club with the highest total mileage, with the most participants, and with the highest average miles per person. In 1964 the LAAC participants totaled 3,897 miles. Steve Seymour decided to establish the 1965 “Last Day Run” to help the club competitors pile up miles on the last day of October.Lu DostiLu Dosti


9 Sep 2018

Rank #10

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41: Around the World on Foot – Part 4 – The Bizarre

By Davy Crockett Before returning to more serious ultrarunning history, three more “around the world on foot” tales must be told. These stories are so bizarre that they are hard to believe, but they did happen. These individuals gave up years of their lives to gather attention by walking thousands of miles enduring much hardship. Eventually as world conflict exploded into World War I, much of what the public thought was nonsense, disappeared for a time.These three stories involved a “masked walker,” an English man who tried to walk around the world in an iron mask. Also, an Austrian man who tried to push his family in a baby carriage around the world. And finally, the “king of the casks”, two Italians who tried to roll a giant barrel around the world. While wager conditions surrounding all three were hoaxes, the extreme walking efforts that took place were genuine. Attention was given worldwide to their efforts. Commenting on one of them, it was written, “He is one of the oddest of the cranks that have started to go around the earth.”The Masked Walker - 1908The “man in the iron mask” was a prisoner held in a French prison during the 1600s. Books, theatrical plays, and movies have been produced involving his story. In 1847 Alexander Dumas, author of The Three Musketeers, wrote a fictional tale about the man in the iron mask which captured the imagination of readers in the 19th century.In 1908, word came from England about a bizarre “around the world walk” that had begun, involving a man in an iron mask. A news report included, “When the average English newspaper is looking hard for a genuine unmitigated ass, it’s a plugged Canadian dime to a double eagle that it will settle on an American millionaire.” Indeed, it was believed that an American multi-millionaire put up $100,000 for a person to walk around the world in very unusual circumstances.The conditions included that the man must wear a mask keeping his identity a secret for the entire journey! In addition he must start with less than five dollars, earn money along the way, get a signature from a town official from every town he entered along with a cancelled postage stamp, must push a perambulator (baby carriage), and must find a wife along the way.Many scoffed that this must be a joke. “The English reading public will believe anything that can be invented by the most prolific and imaginative of minds and expressed in the confines of a newspaper column. The English dailies print a whole lot of stories that would be laughed out of an American newspaper office.”The "iron mask" on a postcard with his assistantNevertheless, a man in England took up the challenge, and encased his head in a black iron mask “of the fashion of the middle ages” and started from London’s Trafalgar Square on January 1, 1908. He pushed a perambulator into a biting wind to begin his ten-year walk around the world, accompanied by an assistant.The masked walker said, “I at once made up my mind to accept the wager. Upon telling the millionaire the decision I had come to, he at once made arrangement with another well-known American gentleman to accompany me. He is only doing it for the sport.” The masked walker preferred that he be called “the iron mask” and the press wondered how he would find someone willing to marry him without looking at his face. But they guessed if he had a chance of winning $100,000 that there would be plenty of takers. He stated that his future wife must be between 25-30 years old, well-educated, of even temper, and have some knowledge of music.As he left Trafalgar Square, he waved to the crowd and yelled, “Farewell, see you in ten years.” He then went over London Bridge and down the Old Kent Road with a large crowd following. He said, “I shall sell photographs and pamphlets while on the journey.” The perambulator was filled with them. That first day he was selling them as fast as he could grab the money.


5 Dec 2019

Rank #11

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27: Yiannis Kouros – Greek Greatness

By Davy Crockett Yiannis Kouros from Greece is considered by most, as the greatest ultrarunner of all time. That is a bold statement, but there are few that dispute this statement. The late “Stubborn Scotsman,” Don Ritchie, is certainly in the conversation, Some can try arguing for certain mountain trail ultrarunners, but what Kouros accomplished, dominating for more than a 20-year period, and setting world records that have lasted for decades is nothing but mind-boggling. Every ultrarunner needs to know about Yiannis Kouros and his accomplishments. One of his competitors, Trishal Cherns of Canada, said, “There’s the elite, the world class, then there’s Yiannis.”Yiannis Kouros was born on February 13, 1956 in Tripoli, Greece, a city of about 20,000 people at that time. His father was a carpenter and the family lived in poverty. They did not always have enough food, requiring Yiannis to perform his first manual laboring at the age of five. He could not afford to go to the movies so he went to a stadium to run for fun.Sports was also a refuge from his family trouble. Kouros explained, “I had a misfortune in my family. When I was born, my father thought I was not his own, he was of course wrong. For that reason, he used to lash out on me. My mother was uneducated and instead of nurturing me she fought me even more. So I grew up in a hostile environment.” He spent much of his childhood with his grandparents who were strong disciplinarians.Please help support this podcast. I’ve joined a partnership with Ultrarunning Magazine. I can offer a 25% discount on Ultrarunning Magazine subscriptions and renewals. Visit https://ultrarunning.com/ultrarunning-history/  Subscribe or renew today.Kouros awarded 1st Place in Long JumpIn elementary school, he was awarded first place in the long jump. In high school he couldn’t stay home after school because of the family troubles, so he had to go somewhere and went to track. He began formal athletic training and started running races at the age of sixteen. At first his coach dismissed Kouros as being “a mediocre athlete who just didn’t have the build to go fast.” But he progressed to be one of the top high school runners in Greece. He was a junior champion at the 3, 000 and 5,000 meter distances. After high school he left home and lived on his own in Athens for a time.Kouros didn’t only have interests in running. At the age of 12 he began writing his own poetry and songs. In his high school years he took music and singing lessons. Eventually he published four albums and took part in music competitions. But his world greatness emerged in his running skills. In 1977 at that age of 21, Kouros ran his first marathon in 2:43:15. His times continued to improve to 2:25 in 1981. Soon he discovered that he excelled far more at ultra distances.In 1981 at the age of 25, Kouros started building a house for himself in Tripolis which would take years to complete. He worked during the days as a guard at the athletic stadium and in the evenings worked on his house alone and trained about twice per day. He averaged only 2.5 hours sleep per night. By the end of the year, he asked the Sports Council to send judges to witness his attempt to run 100k, running on a 20k road course, seeking to set a national record. He finished in 7:35 but no judges came.SpartathlonBy 1983, at the age of 27, Kouros had finished 25 marathons, winning one (1981 Athens), He read about a new race from Athens to Sparta, called the Spartathlon. The race traced the historic footsteps of Pheidippides, an Athenian messenger in 490 BC. This race of about 156 miles (251 km) started at the Acropolis in Athens and ran through ancient towns including Corinth to Sparta. Earlier in October 1982 a team of British athletes from the Royal Air Force covered the course, with the first man finishing in 34.5 hours, proving it could be done.Kouros signed up, hoping to be the first Greek finisher.


9 Jun 2019

Rank #12

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45: Dave Kunst – Walk Around the World – Part 2

By Davy Crockett This is the second part of the Dave Kunst story. Read/Listen/Watch to Part 1 here.Dave Kunst, originally from Minnesota, now from California, claims that he was “the first person verified to have completed circling the entire land mass of the earth on foot.” Kunst's 1970-74 walk has historic importance for the modern-era of ultra-distance walking. I believe that Konstantin Rengarten was actually the first in 1894-1898 (See Part 3). I will show that Kunts' "verified" claim is dubious, but his amazing walk did happen and the story is fascinating and exciting. But at what cost to those who believed in him? With the end just days away, everything seemly fell apart.In 1970, Dave Kunst of Waseca, Minnesota, started a walk around the world with his brother John. Part 1 of this story covered their travels east to New York, by plane to Portugal, and then on foot with a mule to Afghanistan where John was shot and killed by bandits. Dave was wounded and returned to Minnesota to recover in November 1972.Dave felt strongly that the walk should be continued and he deeply wanted to get back on the road to experience an exciting and free life, without family, job, or financial obligations. He said, “The walk will definitely go on. I want to keep the ball rolling. I will be back to finish what my brother and I started so he will not have died for nothing.”Plans to resume the walkPete and DaveIn January 1973, only three months since he had been shot in the chest, Dave Kunst announced that he would resume his walk in March 1973 with his brother Pete. They would travel back to Afghanistan and resume the walk from the mountain pass where their brother John was killed. Dave said, “Pete’s wife was reluctant before, but now she is in favor of it.”  Pete said, “It’s too important to all of us to abandon this idea now. My wife understands this, especially since John gave his life for it. We have to finish the job.”Dave’s wife, Jan, was not as sure. She had mixed emotions about him again leaving her alone to raise their young children. She said, “ I knew he really wanted to do it. I told him if he had to go, to go and get it over with before the kids are teenagers. I’m scared for him to go back there, but it doesn’t seem to bother him.” His reply to her worries appeared to be rather harsh. “Well that’s a typical reaction of a lot of people. That’s really the difference in individuals. Adventurers don’t think of things like that. Columbus – if he’d thought of that, he wouldn’t have discovered America. Definitely, she’s right, but if I sat here and thought about that. I’d be miserable as hell here.”Dave's brother, Pete Kunst, 28, of Santa Ana, California, was a former marine who served in the Vietnam war.  He was a stock clerk at Data Technology Corp. He was married to Nancy with four children. He didn’t originally join his two brothers because his wife was expecting in 1970. Dave said, “We kind of decided, the three of us, that if one of us dropped out, Pete was going to finish.” Pete said, “I knew one way or another, I was going to go.”  Pete had joined Dave and John on the walk in 1970 for three days when they were in Pennsylvania, but now he was going to join full-time.They estimated that to complete the walk, it would take them at least another year. Pete took out a $2,000 loan to help Nancy support the family while he was gone and she also worked as a secretary. Friends helped to raise money for their air fare back to Afghanistan.The two made preparations both in California and in Minnesota to drum up support. they met with Hubert Humphrey before they left, again collecting a letter of introduction and securing his support. They involved UNICEF as part of their walk. UNICEF did not endorse their effort, but was happy to receive any donations they brought in. For the first two and a half years of the walk, the only verified donation amount was just $3,000.


24 Jan 2020

Rank #13

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46: Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim History – Part 1 (1890-1928)

By Davy Crockett For both ultrarunners and hikers, the Grand Canyon is considered by most, one of the greatest destinations to experience. Thousands make their pilgrimages each year to experience the joy of journeying across the Canyon's great expanse, rim-to-rim (R2R). Crossing the Canyon and returning back is an activity that has taken place for more than 125 years. Native Americans crossed the Canyon centuries earlier.During the spring and fall, each day people cross the famous canyon and many of them, return the same day, experiencing what has been called for decades as a “double crossing,” and in more recent years, a "rim-to-rim-to-rim" (R2R2R). Anyone who descends into the Canyon should take some time learning about the history of the trails they use. This article tells the story of many of these early crossings and includes the creation of the trails, bridges, Phantom Ranch, and the water pipeline, the things you will see along your journey. Hopefully this will help you to have a deeper respect for the Canyon and those who helped make it available for us to enjoy.Please help support this podcast. I’ve joined a partnership with Ultrarunning Magazine. I can offer a 25% discount on Ultrarunning Magazine subscriptions and renewals. Visit https://ultrarunning.com/ultrarunning-history/  Subscribe or renew today.Grand Canyon Today - note the datesIntroductionToday if you hike or run across the Grand Canyon you have choices.  You can start from the South Rim or from the North Rim. A South start is more common. On the South side, you can use either the Bright Angel Trail from Grand Canyon Village, or the South Kaibab Trail that starts a few miles to the east, using a shuttle to Yaki Point. On the North side, the North Kaibab Trail is used. These are the main trails into the Grand Canyon and referred to as the "Corridor Trails," used by the masses and mule trains. Today, there are two bridges along the Corridor to cross the Colorado River, Black Bridge or Silver Bridge.When this history story starts abut 1890, there was no Grand Canyon Village, no Phantom Ranch at the bottom, and these trails did not exist. There were few visitors to either Rim because they lacked roads and there were no automobiles yet.  Early miners used many places to descend. This article will concentrate on the corridor region near Grand Canyon Village where most modern crossings are taking place.Creation of Bright Angel Trail (South Side)South Rim about 1890The upper part of Bright Angel Trail, coming down from the South Rim, was originally a route used by the Havasupai to access what became known as Indian Garden, halfway down the Canyon, about 3,000 feet below. In 1887, Ralph Cameron (1863-1953), future US senator of Arizona, prospected and believed he found copper and gold near Indian Garden. He said, "At that time my only purpose in building the trail was to use it in pursuing mining operations."Peter BerryWork began on December 24, 1890 and it would take 12 years to complete. In 1891 Peter D. Berry, (1856-1932), longtime friend of Cameron  succeeded in obtaining rights for the trail, including rights to collect tolls which were not collected until 1901. Berry had also helped engineer the Grandview Trail (Berry Trail) further east. Other trails were being used. Hardy tourists were descending down to the Colorado River using the Bass Trail far to the west. By the end of 1891, after spending $500, and two months of labor, a very rough trail existed that descended the Bright Angel fault to Indian Garden.The trail's nameJohn HanceOriginally called the "Cameron Trail", by 1892 the trail was also named “Bright Angel Trail.” It would cost about $100,000 and 12 years to fully build, and at its height was worked on by 100 men. How did the trail get its name? This is a subject of entertaining legend and folklore. One story was told by "Captain" John Hance (1840-1919) who came to...


1 Feb 2020

Rank #14

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35: Bernd Heinrich – Naturalist Ultrarunner

By Davy Crockett During the first half of the 1980s, Bernd Heinrich, of Vermont, was the fastest ultrarunner in America. Today, few know of him and his amazing running records and accomplishments. Heinrich is the birdman and beeman of ultrarunning. He also was unique from most other ultrarunners in that rather than competing in many races, he was very selective in his race choices. When he ran, he had specific goals to win or set records, with laser focused training for these few specific events. Using this approach, he was able to win and set several American records.Heinrich appeared suddenly on the ultrarunning scene, setting a record in his very first ultra, and he quickly rose to the top of the sport. He was named “Ultrarunner of the Year” three of the first four years of Ultrarunning Magazine. He had a quiet nature and never sought for the running spotlight, but eventually was one of the few to be inducted in the American Ultrarunning Hall of Fame.As a boy, Heinrich grew up living deep in a forest in war-torn Germany. In his life priorities, running was secondary to his true love, observing, researching, teaching and writing about nature. During his intense running years, he was able to find a balance to become a world-renowned expert in his professional naturalist career. Ultrarunning historian, Nick Marshall wrote about Heinrich in 1984, “Often runners don’t know much about the backgrounds of individuals whose athletic accomplishments may be very familiar to them, so it is quite nice to see one of our sport’s star gain recognition as a successful pioneer in a totally unrelated field.”Childhood in GermanyForest in The HahnheideBernd Heinrich was born in Poland in 1940. Near the end of World War II, he and his family fled their large farm near Gdansk to escape advancing Russian troops in 1944, and crossed what would be the future boarder for East Germany. Henrich recalled, “The times were not easy. The biggest problem was filling our bellies. Papa decided that the best chance of finding food would be in the forest. We came across a large reserve called “the Hahnheide,” and within it a small empty hut used before the war by a nature club from Hamburg. The forester in charge gave us permission to move in. We lived deep in the forest for five years. We had no work and hardly ever any money.” They survived by foraging for nuts, berries, mushrooms, and hunting small rodents and ducks. This experience began his love for nature and was, “a rare mix of survival and enchantment.”Mushrooms in The HahnheideHeinrich recalled, “We were totally immersed in nature. Like most animals, our major concern was finding food. I didn’t like picking berries because I had to move so slowly, from bush to bush. I much preferred picking mushrooms when I could run at will through the damp forest, feeling the soft green moss under my bare feet.” Young Heinrich collected beetles and birds’ eggs for his family’s food supply. He became obsessed with the creatures around him. “I had no playmates and never owned a toy. Yet I didn’t feel deprived. Who needs toys after having seen caterpillars from up close and knowing they can turn into moths?”Heinrich became fascinated with bugs and insects. When he was nine, he drew a birthday card for his father and on the back he wrote that he had collected 447 beetles of 135 species. “I loved spending all day in the woods, and I dreaded the idea of growing up and having to work all day.”He said that he discovered “the joy of running after tiger beetles through warm sand on bare, tough-soled feet.” He said, “When I was a child my family called me Wiesel (Weasel) because I was always running through the forest. A lot of people might think of it as a deprived childhood. I feel just the opposite. I see people in the suburbs as very deprived. They don’t get to touch nature.”The Heinrich family on immigration records coming by the ship Batory in 1951 to New York City.


20 Sep 2019

Rank #15

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8: The 50-Miler

By Davy Crockett Follow @ultrarunninghis Both a podcast and a full article(Listen to the podcast episode which includes the bonus story about ultrarunner fears)The fifty-mile race is a distance most of today's ultrarunners eventually run. In 2017 there were about 300 50-mile races held in America with about 16,000 unique finishers. At nearly twice the distance of a marathon, it truly involves a different approach than running a marathon both mentally and physically. Ultrarunning legend, David Horton once wrote, “Most ultra-runners, me included, consider that real ultras are 50 miles or longer.” Since the 1960s, the shorter distances (50K, etc.) were typically used by aspiring ultrarunners to train for completing at the 50-mile distance.When did the 50-mile race begin? Early classic American 50-milers include: the JFK 50 starting in 1963 in Maryland, the Metropolitan 50 starting in 1971 in Central Park, New York City, the Lake Waramaug 50 starting in 1974 in Connecticut, and the American River 50 started in 1980 in California. But just as 100-mile races in America did not originate with Western States in the 1970s, the 50-miler did not originate with the JFK 50 in 1963. In all began much earlier than that.50-milers From Long Ago"Anciently" in 1592 a footrace of just over 50 miles was held in northern France. It was won in twelve hours by a runner from what now is southern Netherlands. In 1787, Reed, of Hampshire, England, walked 50-miles on the sands of Weymouth in a little more than nine hours. Also around that time it was said that Foster Powell, from England ran 50 miles in seven hours.Worldwide, competing for 50 miles on foot had been around, as far back as the 1820s. But it wasn’t until around 1870 that 50-mile races started to be held regularly. They were conducted in various circumstances, indoors, outdoors, tracks, roads, in loops, and point-to-point. Most of the early races were competed indoors on small tracks by professional pedestrian walkers who also competed in six-day events. Challenges and wagers were a key reason these 50-mile events were put on, along with the profits to be gained from spectator gate proceeds. Many times gifted walkers or runners would post challenges in newspapers to specific runners or all-comers to race 50-miles for large amounts of money.50-mile walking racesThe 50-mile races conducted in the 1880s were walking events with strict walking "heel and toe" rules. In America the earliest 50-mile walking competition that could be found was held in 1870. James Adams of New York won a “50 Miles Champion’s Cup of the United States.” Several head-to-head races between two walkers were also held. For many of these 50-mile matches, once a walker quit, the other walker was declared the winner and didn't go on for the full 50 miles.Agricultural HallHow fast could they strictly walk 50 miles? In 1877, pedestrian legend, Daniel O’Leary (1841-1933), in a 100-mile challenge match against John Ennis for $500, walked 50 miles in 8:41:30 in the Exposition Building in Chicago for an American best time. In 1878 that time was improved when William McCann of Albany New York walked a 8:36 in a solo trial walk to get ready for a high stakes challenge race. The world walking best around that time was set in 1878 by British walker, William Howes, with an amazing walking time of 7:57:41 in the Agricultural Hall in London. Buffalo, New York was the home of many walking contests including an amateur 50-miler in 1879 with seven starters. The second-place walker protested the race, claiming that the winner was seen running.Go-as-you-please 50-milersIn 1879 “Go as you please” 50-mile events were established that allowed the competitors to run. Amateurs entered the sport around that time started to dominate 50-mile competitions. Distance "records" were divided into professional and amateur records. Races of twenty-five miles were much more common,


23 Oct 2018

Rank #16

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18: 1,000 Milers – Part 2 – The Barclay Match

By Davy Crockett Both a podcast episode and a full articleRichard ManksCan a person walk or run 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours, doing a mile in each and every hour for nearly 42 days? That was the strange question that surfaced in 1809 in England. In Part 1 of the 1000-milers I covered the attempts to reach 1,000 miles as fast possible. This part will cover what became known as the Barclay Match, walking a mile every hour, which was feat of enduring sleep deprivation and altering sleep patterns dramatically. In a way, these matches were similar endurance activities to the bizarre walkathons of the 1930s that required participants to be on their feet every hour.Critics of these 1,000-mile events called them "cruel exhibitions of self-torture" that had no point expect to "win the empty applause of a thoughtless mob" and put a few pounds into the pockets of the walkers. They said, "there is nothing to learn from such exhibitions save they are positively injurious, physically and morally." But others thought the matches gave "convincing proof that man is scarcely acquainted with his own capacity and powers.”These "1,000 miles in 1,000 hours" events captivated the world, were cheered in person by tens of thousands of people, were wagered with the equivalent of millions of today's value in dollars, and launched the sport of pedestrianism into the public eye. It was first thought that this 1,000-mile feat was an impossibility, and it was called a “Herculean” effort. Betting was heavy and wagers were nearly always against success. But during a 100-year period, there were more than 200 attempts of this curious challenge and more than half were successes. How did this all begin?Captain Robert BarclayRobert Barclay Allardice, or "Captain Barclay," of Ury, Scotland, was born to a Scottish family in 1779. His father had been a member of Parliament and owned extensive estates. When young Barclay was fifteen years old, he won a 100 guineas wager, walking heal-toe six miles in one hour which at that time was considered a great accomplishment. When he was twenty year old, he covered 150 miles in two days, and in 1801, in very hot weather, he walked 300 miles in five days. Also that year he walked/ran 110 miles in 19:27 in a muddy park. He became a very experienced walker who took on many wagers. He also was an officer in the army and thus called “Captain.”In September 1808 Barley started to consider accepting a challenge to walk 1,000 miles in 1,000 consecutive hours for 1,000 guineas, a large fortune at that time. (Worth about $155,000 in 2019). For a farm laborer, a year’s wages was about 50 guineas.Barclay first he conducted a secret test at his estate in Scotland. One of his tenant farmers was able to walk one mile, every hour for eight day. Barclay decided to accept the 1,000 miles in 1,000 days challenge.Others had attempted this before but no one went longer than 30 days. For example, in 1772 a tailor began a walk on a large wager to walk 1,000 mile in 1000 hours on “a spot of ground marked out for the purpose near Tyburn Turnpike” in London. It is believed that he was unsuccessful. A pedestrian named Jones sought to walk every hour for a month but quit in less than three weeks. Others were defeated by lack of sleep, swollen legs, and other various problems. A man from Gloucestershire rode a horse 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours, one mile in each hour, on Stinchcombe Hill in Dursley, England. “He won with ease.”As word spread about this challenge, others 1000-mile ideas were spawned, including by George Wilson who wanted to attempt walking 1,000 miles in less than half the time, in 20 hours. (See Part 1).1,000 Miles in 1,000 Consecutive HoursMonths passed and Barclay’s challenge was put together to be performed on open land near Newmarket, England. A half mile course was laid out to be walked out and back in a straight line over smooth and even uncultivated land.


9 Mar 2019

Rank #17

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17: 1,000-milers – Part 1

By Davy Crockett Both a podcast episode and a full articleIn the 1980s running 100 miles started to become more popular for the non-professional runner to attempt. By 2017 some in the ultrarunning community viewed running 100 miles as fairly common place. In recent years a saying of “200 is the new 100” emerged as a few 200-mile trail races were established, meaning that 100 miles used to be viewed as very difficult but 200 miles was the new challenging standard. This may be true, but what about running 1,000 miles? Will 1,000 milers ever be the “new 200?” What? Who runs 1,000-mile races?In 1985 America’s first modern-day 1,000 mile race was held in Flushing Meadows Corona Park in Queens, New York with three finishers. The 1986 race was probably the most famous modern-day 1,000-mile race held with a show-down of several of the world greats. But most ultrarunners have never heard about 1,000-mile races. 1,000-mile attempts in one go have taken place for more than two centuries.A curious 1,000-mile frenzy took place for about ten years in England during the early 1800s by professional walkers/runners. They took on huge wagers making those who succeeded, very wealthy men. These 1,000-mile events attracted thousands of curious spectators who also wagered and spent much of their money at the sponsoring pubs during the multi-week events.This will be a three-part series on 1,000 milers. Two main formats for these 1,000-milers took place during early 1800s. In Part 1, the stories will be told about walking 1,000 miles, “go as you please” as fast as the pedestrians could, to reach the distance within a certain number of days to win the wagers. They were not really interested in achieving best times. They were simply interested in reaching 1,000 miles in time to win the wager and gain lots of money donated by spectators. Massive amounts of money changed hands in bets.In Part 2, stories even more famous will be told about reaching 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours, an effort commonly called, the “Barclay Match.” With this format the pedestrians were required to walk a mile during every successive hour, a strange battle to establish bizarre sleep patterns for nearly 42 days. Part 3 will include the modern-day 1,000-mile races.Very Early 1,000 Mile AttemptsRunning or walking the 1,000-mile distance in an event has taken place for more than 250 years. Before the modern era of ultrarunning (post-WWII), attempts to reach that specific distances were mostly conducted as solo attempts involving wagers.Wake Green WindmillThe earliest known 1,000-miler was attempted in 1759 by George Guest, a wagoner from Warwickshire, England. At Birmingham, England, for a “considerable wager”, Guest attempted to walk 1,000 miles in 28 days. He knew that he needed to walk about 36 miles per day. His course was in the area of Mosely-Wake Green, about two miles from Birmingham. He only walked 31 miles the first day but from then on stayed on schedule. Half way through, on day 14 he was back on schedule at mile 490. It was reported, “He is perfectly well and it is thought he will perform the whole in the time.” By day 21 he had walked 720 miles.With two days to go, Guest still had 106 more miles to go. He was feeling fine and to show off a bit, “he walked the last six miles within an hour, though he had a full six hours in which to complete his task.” He finished on February 1, 1759. The next month he again attempted to walk 1,000 miles, this time in 24 days for 1,000 guineas in five-pound shoes. His attempt took place on horse grounds in South Lambeth, a southern district of London. It is unknown if he was successful, probably not.1,000 Miles in 20 DaysGeorge WilsonGeorge Wilson of Newcastle-on-Tyne, England, was born in 1766. He was one of the pioneers of pedestrianism and would become known as “the Blackheath Pedestrian.” In his 40s, he had a “draper and hosier” (cloth and clothing) business that required h...


14 Feb 2019

Rank #18

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30: 1927 Redwood Indian Marathon – 480 Miles

By Davy Crockett 1893 Native American Relay in Taos, New MexicoFor centuries, many Native Americans were known to be outstanding long-distance runners who could run ultra-distances. Their talents were used in important roles to carry messages and news to distant communities. One of the most famous ultra-messaging events took place in 1680 when a very coordinated system of message runners were dispatched from Taos Pueblo, in present-day New Mexico to Hopi Villages in present-day Arizona, nearly 400 miles away, to coordinate a successful, simultaneous, revolt involving 70 villages against their Spanish oppressors.In the 1860s a Mesquakie runner in his mid-50s ran 400 miles from Green Bay, Wisconsin to the Missouri River to warn another tribe about an impending attack. Such runners would dedicate their lives to this role of being an ultrarunning messenger.As Native American Talents became more widely known by Anglo-Americas, competitive wagers arose to prove their capabilities. In 1876 “Big Hawk Chief” ran 120 miles within 20 hours accompanied by an observer on a horse. In the early 1900s gifted ultra-distance runners were known to be among the Hopi, Yaqui, Tarahumara in Mexico, and the Seri of Tiburon Island in the gulf of California. The Hopi had been known to cover 130 miles within 24 hours.The Native American runners occupied a central role in ultrarunning during the early twentieth century. Sadly this fact has largely been forgotten or overlooked. In 1927, a 480-mile race took place on the California/Oregon Redwood Highway that received intense daily attention in newspapers across America. This article will provide the detailed story for the first time of that historic, forgotten race.Plans for the 1927 Redwood Indian MarathonBy 1921, the running talents of the Native Americans were being noticed. The Los Angeles Herald, suggested, “If the Olympic commissioners want to find an Olympic Marathon runner who can beat the world, it might be a good scheme to look the Indian reservations over.” By 1926 In Arizona, “Indian Marathons” started to become features at local fairs and festivals. One such race was organized in Phoenix, running 25 miles from downtown to the fair grounds. “Only Indians who, in former days, ran over hot desert sands for various tribal missions will be called upon to appear in the race. The Hopi and Navajo Indian runners will serve as one of the best advertising features of the affair.” Soon this idea spread, to link exhibitions of Native American extreme running with national events.In 1927, with all the recent national attention to Native American runners, including the Tarahumara who were coming to run in Texas, the Chamber of Commerce in San Francisco conceived of a marketing idea to focus on the newly constructed highway stretch called the “Redwood Highway.” This new stretch of mostly dirt road went from San Francisco, California on Highway 101 to Crescent City California, and then east on Highway 199 to Grants Pass, Oregon, weaving through dense forests of redwood trees. In order to get more attention to the highway, and fill hotels along the way, they had a pretty brilliant idea to hold a “Redwood Marathon” foot race on the highway stretch. To gain even more media coverage they wanted to exploit the “Indian runner frenzy” at that time by limiting the entrants to Native Americans.Oregon Cavemen at the Oregon Caves in 1926. Members promoted Grants Pass tourism by dressing in animal skins.In March, Clyde Edmunson, the manager of the Redwood Empire Association, announced that a 480-mile race would be held in June and that a dozen Indian tribes had agreed to enter runners for prizes of $2500. (This was a stretch, because no tribes had actually committed.) In Oregon, The “Caveman Association” of Grants Pass, a club of civic boosters, also jointly sponsored the idea and they claimed that the event would be “the longest race of its kind in history.”


16 Jul 2019

Rank #19

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39: Around the World on Foot – Part 2 (1894-96)

By Davy Crockett In Part 1 of this series, about walking around the world, I covered the very early attempts. By 1894, dozens, if not hundreds of walkers, started to participate in an “around the world on foot” craze. For many it was a legitimate ultrawalking attempt, but for most it was just a scam to travel on other people's generous contributions.The typical scam went like this: They claimed that they were trying to walk around the world to win thousands of dollars on a wager, but they had to do it without bringing any money. They needed to be funded through the generosity of others, get free room and board, and free travel on ships. Walkers came out of the woodwork and the newspapers were fascinated by these attempts.Eventually some in the press started to get wise. These walkers started to be referred derisively as tramps, globetrotters, cranks, fools, or "around the world freaks." One reporter wrote, “A great majority of these wanderers upon the face of the earth are men who would rather do anything than work.” Another astute reporter identified many of these walkers as “frauds, traveling over the country practicing a smooth game in order to be wined and dined.”Sprinkled in with these self-promoting frauds were also those who were legitimately striving to circle the globe on foot. Their efforts were real and very hard. They underestimated the difficulty involved, yet had amazing experiences. There were too many of these “globetrotters” to even list. This article will share some amazing and bizarre tales of the naive, those that failed, the cheats, and the fakers. In the next article, I will share stories about the successful walks around the world.   Samuel Wilson and Horace Yorke – British walkers - 1893Those that went in pairs usually went the furthest. In 1894 two men from England started a unique walk around the world that would cross through Canada. Samuel Wilson, age 30, of Australia and Horace G. Yorke, an American living in England, both journalists, started their east to west walk around the world from Lincoln, England on August 11, 1893 and they were required to finish it in an unrealistic 18 months. Crazy restrictions were imposed as part of their “journalistic enterprise” that they could not spend any money on food or clothing but had to depend on the hospitality of others they met.Wilson, a journalist, spoke six languages, claimed that he had previously walked from Cape Horn to Boston and had been the guest of President Grover Cleveland at the White House. (No evidence was found of this ever happening).They first walked across Britain to Liverpool and then took a steamer to Quebec City, Canada. They walked the railroad tracks to Montreal, arriving there on Aug 28, 1894. There, they received permission from the Canadian Pacific Railway Company to walk the line across Canada and use all the bridges.The paper wrote, “Nearly every person possesses a craze of some sort, but probably the latest development towards the extreme point of the sensation is that of Mr. Samuel Wilson who informed us that it was his intention to tramp round the world. He simply carries a satchel containing his register, wherein he gets subscribed his visits to the various towns he passes through.”  Wilson was asked why he was really doing the walk. “I am engaged by the Sydney Bulletin for certain purposes and when my books are published, I shall of course, receive remuneration for them” Why was he going without money? “I believe a man can go through anywhere with civility. You hear a lot of nonsense and tomfoolery in this country about savages, but I have never been seriously molested by them.”The two continued their walk across Canada going from railroad section house to the next, day by day and never camped out as they made their way to Calgary during the winter of 1893-94. “It was useless to carry food or water because both would become frozen. Neither was there any wood to build a fire,


21 Nov 2019

Rank #20