Ask the Goat: The Father of Pedestrianism

Transcontinental crossings are in no way a new phenomenon.

Even excluding stagecoaches, horses, beasts of burden and waterway passages, the quest to cover ground from border to border has always been out there. From the earliest days of Pedestrianism to the modern through-hikers, myriad treks, excursions and races have been begun. Few make it to completion. We’ll start with a little history of the earliest transcon personalities, like Edward Peyson Weston – the Father of Pedestrianism.

Ask the Goat by Chris Knodel

Ask the Goat
by Chris Knodel

Born March 15, 1839 in Providence, Rhode Island, Weston spent his early life pursuing profit and being anything but an athlete. Upon losing a bet on the 1860 election of President Abraham Lincoln, however, he made his name by walking (as per conditions of the agreement) the 478-miles from Boston to Washington D.C. to attend the 1861 inauguration. Surprisingly, and although Weston had bet that ‘Honest Abe’ would lose, the new president championed Weston’s athletic feat and promoted him to attempt future endeavors.

Over the next 52 years, Weston dazzled the world with his distance walking, from an 1867 crossing between Portland Maine and Chicago Ill. (receiving him $10,000 for the 1,200 miles in 26 days), an 1869 New England trek of 1,058 miles across snow-capped terrain in 30 days, to a novelty run of 200 miles backward in St. Louis in 1871. Weston spent almost a decade in England competing against some of the most prominent European pedestrians of the era, and returned only after receiving the coveted Astley belt – 19th century England’s six-day ‘Go-As-You-Please’ running accolade.

After returning to the U.S., Weston resumed his fervor for breaking distance records by covering the one hundred miles between Philadelphia and New York in less than 24-hours (1906). The following year, Weston beat his own Maine-to-Illinois record by 24-hours. But it in 1909 that Weston truly came into own by attempting a transcontinental trek from New York to San Francisco, a total distance of 4000-miles. He completed the crossing in 100 days.

Edward Weston

Edward Weston

Weston spent his latter 50 years championing walking as the single-best form of exercise for health. He often denounced the automobile industry by stating that cars simply made people lethargic and sedentary. After a final trek of 1,546 miles from New York to Minneapolis in 1913, Weston ended his walking legacy.

Ironically, his death was hastened by the very invention he rallied against. In 1927, Weston was struck down by a New York City taxicab and could never walk again as a result of the injuries sustained. Two years later, Weston died in his sleep. Although diluted and summarized here, Edward Peyson Weston’s story is quite interesting. It can be found in Man in a Hurry: The Extraordinary Life and Times of Edward Peyson Weston, the World’s Greatest Walker, by Nick Harris, Helen Harris and Paul Marshall.

Chris Knodel is a Mangum Track Club member and Sandhills Region native. He is the author of “More, Better Quicker – The Irish Goat: A Fat-Boy & His Path to Ultra-Distance.” His column will appear each Thursday on

Filed in: Latest Headlines, Outdoors, Sports

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