It started with my search for the exact length of the mile in kilometers when I stumbled upon a popular 19th century sport Pedestrianism.
Pedestrianism is a 19th century form of competitive walking from which the modern sport of Racewalking developed. By the end of the 18th century, feats of foot travel over great distances gained attention, and were labeled “Pedestrianism.” One of the most famous pedestrians of the day was Captain Robert Barclay Allardice, known as “The Celebrated Pedestrian,” of Stonehaven whose most impressive feat was to walk a mile every hour for 1000 hours, which he achieved between the 1st of June and the 12th of July, 1809 (thus covering 1,000 miles during the period). Another popular goal was for competitors in long distance walks to walk 100 miles in less than 24 hours, from which they earned the nickname “Centurians.” How many Ultramarathoners do you know in recent history that made such feat?
If you think about it Pedestrianism is much like a modern Ultramarathon, and as a form of sport it would be much older than the modern marathon which was introduced in the modern Olympics in 1896 (and standardized in 1921).
Looking back at sports history is really an educational journey, not to mention interesting. Who would’ve thought that people have been doing Ultras long before we had marathon races?