I got drawn into the history of race walking. From Wikipedia:
Racewalking developed as one of the original track and field events of the first meeting of the English Amateur Athletics Association in 1880. The first racewalking codes came from an attempt to regulate rules for popular 19th century long distance competitive walking events, called Pedestrianism.Let's click through to Pedestrianism:
During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, pedestrianism, like running or horse racing (equestrianism) was a popular spectator sport in the British Isles. Pedestrianism became a fixture at fairs – much like horse racing – developing from wagers on footraces, rambling, and 17th century footman wagering. Sources from the late 17th and early 18th century in England describe aristocrats pitting their carriage footmen, constrained to walk by the speed of their masters' carriages, against one another....Racing their footmen as they'd race horses.
By the end of the 18th century, and especially with the growth of the popular press, feats of foot travel over great distances (similar to a modern Ultramarathon) gained attention, and were labelled "pedestrianism."...Here's a book on the subject, "Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America's Favorite Spectator Sport."
The longer form of "ultra marathon" walking featured in the popular press and in the decade after the American Civil War in the United States was a source of fascination. Edward Payson Weston, a reporter for the New York Herald won a $10,000 prize by walking 1,136 miles from Portland, Maine, to Chicago in 30 days in 1867. In the United States a series of women's competitions were staged, special indoor tracks were built in some towns, and intra-community long distance pedestrianism came into vogue. Along with sensational feats of distance, gambling was a central attraction for the large, mostly working-class crowds which came to pedestrian events.
Strange as it sounds, during the 1870s and 1880s, America’s most popular spectator sport wasn’t baseball, boxing, or horseracing—it was competitive walking. Inside sold-out arenas, competitors walked around dirt tracks almost nonstop for six straight days (never on Sunday), risking their health and sanity to see who could walk the farthest—500 miles, then 520 miles, and 565 miles! These walking matches were as talked about as the weather, the details reported from coast to coast.Here's an NPR article about the book. Excerpt:
This long-forgotten sport, known as pedestrianism, spawned America’s first celebrity athletes and opened doors for immigrants, African Americans, and women. The top pedestrians earned a fortune in prize money and endorsement deals. But along with the excitement came the inevitable scandals, charges of doping—coca leaves!—and insider gambling. It even spawned a riot in 1879 when too many fans showed up at New York’s Gilmore’s Garden, later renamed Madison Square Garden, and were denied entry to a widely publicized showdown.
There were brass bands playing songs; there were vendors selling pickled eggs and roasted chestnuts. It was a place to be seen. There were a lot of celebrities who attended the matches....
[Edward Payson Weston] was one of the most famous pedestrians of the 19th century.... [Weston] was found to be chewing coca leaves while he walked in a race in 1876. This wasn't strictly illegal but it was considered unsportsmanlike and outright cheating at the worst. He admitted that he used coca leaves in a race, but he said it was under the advice of his doctor.
Champagne was considered a stimulant. And a lot of trainers — these guys had trainers — advised their pedestrians to drink a lot of champagne during the race. They thought that this would give them some kind of advantage...
ADDED: From the NYT, July 22, 1875, "WALKING AT LONG BRANCH":