The Rise and Fall of Pedestrianism: A Popular 19th Century Sport

TLDR Pedestrianism, a competitive walking sport, was incredibly popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, attracting large crowds and significant amounts of wagered money. However, the sport eventually declined in popularity with the rise of team sports like baseball and association football, although it has evolved into modern-day speedwalking.

Timestamped Summary

00:00 Pedestrianism, or competitive walking, was one of the most popular sports in the 19th century, attracting large crowds, endorsement deals, and significant amounts of wagered money.
02:18 Pedestrianism in the 18th and 19th centuries involved endurance races, with notable feats including Foster Powell walking 402 miles in 5 days and 18 hours, and Robert Barclay Allardice walking 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours.
04:00 George Wilson's pedestrianism feat attracted thousands of spectators, led to betting, circus acts, and liquor sales, but he was eventually arrested for disturbing the peace, although he was later acquitted and received a prize of £100, and he continued his walking career by completing a 1,000-mile walk in 18 days and a 90-mile walk in 24 hours.
05:42 Pedestrian matches became extremely popular in the 19th century, with famous women pedestrians achieving impressive feats, and the pedestrian craze eventually spread to the United States after the Civil War.
07:24 Pedestrianism became increasingly popular, with Weston's 6 day exhibition in Newark setting the standard for competitions, and the sport becoming more formalized with the establishment of the Long Distance Championship of the World and the O'Leary Belt race in New York City.
08:55 Pedestrianism started to decline in popularity in the 1880s as team sports like baseball and association football gained prominence, but there were still pedestrian exhibitions, including Edward Weston's 5,000 mile walk in 100 days and his 2,500 mile walk across America with Dan O'Leary in 1896.
10:33 Pedestrianism eventually evolved into speedwalking, which became an Olympic sport in 1908, and while the spirit of pedestrianism lives on in through hiking and events like the Barkley Marathons, it is unlikely to make a full comeback.
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