Books on the history of long distance foot races (Read 94 times)



    I'm thinking about writing a fiction book (wow, I said it! for the first time!). The events will take place in the beginning of 1820s. So, I'm looking for any kind of information about running or walking races in late 18-early 19 centuries. So far, I've found:


    Running: the global history, by Thor Gotaas and Peter Graves, 2012

    Pedestrianism, or an Account of the performances of celebrated pedestrians during the last and present century, by Walter Thom, 1813

    North American ultrarunning: a history, by Andy Milroy, 2012


    There are some more, but I'm not sure about the period of history covered in the following ones:


    The complete history of cross-country running: from the 19th century to the present day, by Andrew Hutchinson (too expensive Sad)

    Pedestrianism, or When watching people walk was America's favorite spectator sport, by Matthew Algeo, 2017

    The lost art of walking, by Geoff Nicholson, 2009


    Do you know anything about the last three? Or any other books about history of running, fell running, racewalking and so on?


    Are we there, yet?

      You might want to check out http://ultrarunninghistory.com/ or contact Davy Crockett who created and maintains the site.

       2023 Races:

            06/16 - Six Days in the Dome 12-Hour




        Thanks! I know and love both Davy Crockett's blogs which I discovered soon after he had launched ultrarunninghistory.com. But his focus is usually on 20 century. Not my epoch Smile


          The ultimate book on pedestrianism is King of the Peds.


            Thanks, I'll check out the book. The blurbs mostly talk about late 19th century, but the Wikipedia article about George Wilson also references 'King of the Peds'.

            Looks good, great!


            BTW, 'A Sketch of The Life of George Wilson, The Blackheath Pedestrian' is available for free on Google Books.


              I did some searches in the Library of Congress catalog and here were some titles that I thought might be along the lines of what you're interested in:



              Sears, Edward S. (Edward Seldon), 1943- Running through the ages / by Edward S. Sears. Jefferson, N.C. : McFarland, c2001.

              vi, 330 p. : ill. ; 26 cm.

              GV1061 .S38 2001

              ISBN: 0786409711

              (Looks like used copies might be available through Amazon.)



              Krise, Raymond. Fast tracks : the history of distance running since 884 B.C. / Raymond Krise and Bill Squires. 1st ed. Brattleboro, Vt. : S. Greene Press, c1982.

                   vi, 282 p. : ill. ; 24 cm.

                   GV1062 .K74 1982

                   ISBN: 0828904820

              (Looks like used copies might be available through Amazon.)


              I also saw some books in the results on running cultures if you're interested in writing about that.  There was a recent Rich Roll podcast on this topic, as well "Episode 389 - Sanjay Rawal," 

              If you're not married to that time frame, you could also do some newspaper article searching.  (The Library of Congress has a collection of old newspapers but you can see if any libraries near you have access to Proquest Historical Newspapers.)  A few years ago, I was doing some research on running history and found some interesting (to me) articles.  There was one about early "marathons" and I enjoyed reading how race support was essentially done by the gentleman's household help.  And, there were a lot of articles about exhibition races in the U.S. and Canada involving Native American runners.  Even though the reporting praised their abilities, I remember thinking the events themselves seemed incredibly exploitative.  Finally, I remember stumbling upon articles about other early pioneers in women's distance running, like Julia Chase-Brand.  It's great that Kathrine Switzer and Bobbi Gibb finally got her due but there are probably other stories to be told on this topic.


              In any event, I'm sure there are some great book ideas out there.  Happy researching!  And, remember your public libraries!


                Yes King of the Peds is mostly about the late 19th c.


                  Julia1971, thanks! The titles sound promising. As for the libraries, we don't have lots of books in English in Russian provincial libraries, so I don't expect to find anything really helpful there. No harm in trying, of course.

                  T Hound

                  Slower but happier

                    The now defunct “Marathon and Beyond” mag has a good article “When watching ultras was all the rage” by Mathew Algeo.  May/June ed 2015 pp 96-108.   About late 19th century. With some cool pics too.


                    Also July/August 2014 has one about Ultrapedestrian George Littlewood.  Of note beer was involved back then as well.


                    Maybe others in that publication, not sure.  You see if website is up and ask for a copy?  Sounds like library option is out.

                    2020 goal:  couch to 5K, currently working on the couch block



                      Treadmill Hound, thanks. Matthew Algeo is also the author of 'Pedestrianism, or When watching people walk was America's favorite spectator sport', so I assume that a large part of the info from the article should be included in the book, which can be found on Google Books: https://books.google.com/books?id=AND0AgAAQBAJ&printsec=frontcover#v=onepage&q&f=false


                      Are we there, yet?

                        Davy Crockett just posted an article on the history of the 50-mile race that includes some info from the 19th century as well as a list of references.

                         2023 Races:

                              06/16 - Six Days in the Dome 12-Hour