The race was held from February 27 to March 4, 1882, in Madison Square Gardens. Included in the race were the American current and former world-record holders Patrick Fitzgerald and John Hughes. In training for the race, Rowell ran and walked 64 km/day at the American Institute Building in Manhattan.
During the race, Rowell passed 160 km in 13:26:30 and after 22-1/2 hours had completed 241.8 km, both new world records. He passed 320 km (200 miles) in 35:09:28, setting his third world record, and after 48 hours had completed 416 km for his fourth world record. On the 3rd day he passed 480 km (300 miles)
In 58:17:06, finishing the day with 568.5 km, his fifth and sixth world records, respectively.
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On the morning of the 4th day Rowell accidentally ingested a cupful of vinegar and retired from the race shortly thereafter. The race was won by the Englishman George Hazael with a new world-record distance of 967.8 km with Fitzgerald second with 929.2 km.
Rowell was clearly not prepared to retire after such a disappointment. He entered another 6-day race in September 1882 but retired after the 3rd day because of an illness that was diagnosed as malaria. He went home to Britain and rested on his farm for 1 year. In October 1883 Rowell returned to New York and started training for a return match with Fitzgerald to be held in the Madison Square Gardens from April 28 to May 3, 1884.
This proved to be a remarkable race. On the afternoon of the 6th day, Rowell closed the gap on the exhausted Fitzgerald to less than 3 km, at which point Fitzgerald’s medical adviser, a Dr. Taylor, lacerated Fitzgerald’s legs with a mechanical scarifier. The treatment was apparently effective; the exhausted Fitzgerald was sufficiently revived to hold off Rowell’s final challenge and to complete a new world-record distance of 982 km to Rowell’s 969.2 km.
During 1888, the last three important 6-day events were held in Madison Square Gardens. In the first, James Albert from Philadelphia increased the world record to 1001 km; in May, George Littlewood returned from Britain and completed 984.1 km, the second-best performance ever. Then in November, Littlewood completed 1004.2 km in 4 hours less than 6 days. It was the final great race. Despite attempts at a renaissance in 1901, 6-day racing would be dead for more than 90 years.
Of the great pedestrians, Weston and O’Leary continued to walk for the rest of their lives. O’Leary made a custom of walking 160 km within 24 hours on each of his birthdays and was able to keep this up to his 75th birthday, when he completed the 160 km in 23:54. O’Leary died at the age of 87; Weston, who at age 70 walked from New York City to San Francisco (6,279 km) in 105 days, died at 90. Osier and Dodd (1979) noted that the other pedestrians were not as fortunateRowell died at 55, Fitzgerald at 53, and Brown at 41. The authors wonder whether Weston’s self-control, in particular his ability to quit rather than to force himself when he was overextended, might not have been a factor in his greater longevity.
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