Training and Racing Methods of Pedestrians
Andy Milroy (1983) made the most detailed analysis of the techniques employed by the top pedestrians. He found that professional pedestrians usually came from working-class families and were lured to this most grueling activity by the remarkable financial incentivesone victory in a 6-day race could provide financial
Security for life. Only the very best athletes became pedestrians, and many were world-record holders at shorter distance races; Patrick Fitzgerald held the United
States 1-hour record with 17.76 km; George Hazael held the world 32-km 20-mile) record; and George Mason and James Bailey held world records at 40 km (25 miles) and 64 km (40 miles), respectively. Prospective pedestrians graduated to the full-blown 6-day events by way of nursery events in which they ran continuously for 12 to 14 hours a day for 6 days.
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Milroy’s (1983) analysis shows that the pedestrians aimed to maintain speeds of between 8.4 and 9.6 km/hr, usually averaging about 8.8 km/hr. Rowell, in particular, could run tirelessly at 9.6 km/hr for hours on end. Together with Walter George, Rowell perfected a most economical running style that produced hardly any knee bend or leg lift; the “trailing leg swung through naturally, like a pendulum, bringing the heel in contact with the ground” (Dillon & Milroy, 1984, p. 48). The benefit of this technique may have been that the absence of any knee bend reduced the amount of eccentric contraction in the quadriceps, thereby protecting the muscle from injury (see post 10). Littlewood, too, is thought to have perfected a flat-footed, shuffling gait.
Milroy (1983) concluded that the pedestrians did not alternate walking and running but continued to run for as long as possible each day before starting to walk. At the end of each day they would sleep as little as 3 hours a night; in a fiercely competitive race they would sleep as little as 2 to 2-1/2 hours, an athlete with a good lead might sleep for 4 hours a night. Sleep usually followed a hot bath and massage.
We have little documented evidence of the training methods of the pedestrians. Milroy (1983) suggested that this was because they did not wish their opponents to discover their secrets. It seems that most adhered to the training methods proposed by Barclay and Hurst, in which they alternated walking and running for 6 to 8 hours a day. According to Burfoot (1981a), Rowell “walked and ran up to 50 miles a day” (p. 35). According to Dillon and Milroy (1984), Rowell “would run eight hours a day and put in a sixty mile run twice a week. On his hard day he would go out for a second session” (p. 48). He apparently thought nothing of running to London from his home in Chesterton near Cambridge (about 96 km) in under 8 hours and returning the next day. Similarly, Littlewood trained three times a day, alternating walking and running, including trips from his home to Doncaster and back (116 km).
The pedestrians followed diets similar to those described by Len Hurst (Milroy, 1983) and Captain Barclay (Thom, 1813): roast beef, roast and boiled mutton or chicken, and limited vegeExercisess and stale crusty bread, all washed down with bitter ale. The meat, often in the form of chops, was usually taken before the longest unbroken period of each day’s training. While on the move, the pedestrians ate meat protein in semiliquid form (e.g, mutton stew, calfs-foot jelly, or eel broth) using an invalid feeding cup like a small gravy boat with a
Long, thin spout. The favorite liquid intake was beef tea or beef broth. Other fluids taken were tea, coffee, ginger ale, and milk as well as more potent beverages. When the pedestrians became exhausted, they successfully used alcoholic drinks like champagne and brandy. Often more drastic measures were needed, including morphine, strychnine, and belladonna intake; electric shocks; and even the mechanical scarification to which Fitzgerald* was subjected during his final race with Rowell in 1884.
Milroy (1983) concluded that the pedestrians’ successes were probably due to their willingness to cut their sleep to 3 hours or less a night; their running to preplanned schedules of rest (at least at the start); and their abilities to walk at 6.4 km/hr for long periods even when utterly exhausted. But the most important factor, Milroy believes, was the prospect of overnight wealth for poor men.
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