Join 3,375 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


The Long Walk
September 14, 2012 6:10 AM   Subscribe

Just straight-up walking made Weston, for a while, probably the biggest sports star on earth.
posted by Chrysostom (25 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sports normally put me to sleep, but Grantland does a darn good job keeping me awake and interested:
one of the central tactical questions the competitors had to face was when, and for how long, to pause for sleep. Walkers would push themselves to cover 400 miles in five days, or 500 miles in six days, often suffering bloody feet — think about doing 3,000 laps in mid-Victorian footwear — swollen joints, and nastier injuries. There were deaths on the track.
Damn. And then:
The crowds were kicked out at night, but the races kept going, hours and hours of exhausted men passing in silence around enormous, empty halls, judges noting their progress as they went.
Wow. Visions of Victorian dystopia.
posted by postcommunism at 6:41 AM on September 14, 2012


I wonder if this is where King [as Bachman] got his idea for the book The Long Walk....
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:50 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Oh, and after reading that, Weston sounds like a tremendous man.

How is he not mentioned alongside Babe Ruth and other sports, how is this story not the figurehead for the anti-obesity, walk more and drive less ideals that we're trying to restore here in the US? How is it that I've heard of dance marathons and been somewhat impressed when this sort of thing completely dwarfs them?

Wow, I've hiked my fair share of miles but to do some of the feats he's accomplished...
posted by RolandOfEld at 6:58 AM on September 14, 2012


*checking right now on movie rights*
posted by unSane at 7:00 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I especially like the description of him as a potato with toothpicks.
posted by elizardbits at 7:02 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Thanks. In historical terms, 1870 wasn't that long ago, but here we have people devoting big chunks of their lives to a sport that I'd never even heard of as a sport before.
posted by tyllwin at 7:03 AM on September 14, 2012


For most of us, being hit by lightning and kicked out of the circus would be an extraordinary turn of events.

Most, yes. But what about the remaining 17 percent of us who have to put up with that on a weekly basis?
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:06 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love this account. And I picture (perhaps wrongly, but still) all of these pedestrianism enthusiasts partaking of their sport by walking briskly in indoor tracks fully decked-out in suits with ties and proper shoes.

More sports should be like this.
posted by xingcat at 7:07 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


What a cool story. I love stuff about the rise of popular culture in the 19th century. Some of it was just so odd.
posted by octothorpe at 7:08 AM on September 14, 2012


I love it. I really hope Pedestrianism makes a comeback.I'm not sure I am down with go-as-you-please rules though. Pedestrianism should be sedate, leisurely not damn near jogging. I guess I consider myself a walking purist.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:30 AM on September 14, 2012


I love it. I really hope Pedestrianism makes a comeback.I'm not sure I am down with go-as-you-please rules though. Pedestrianism should be sedate, leisurely not damn near jogging. I guess I consider myself a walking purist.

I have bad news. You're the walking version of a single-speed riding hipster.

You're also setting yourself up to have liked pedestrianism before it was cool again.
posted by jaduncan at 7:34 AM on September 14, 2012


> I have bad news. You're the walking version of a single-speed riding hipster.

The French called them flâneurs, and if you were serious about it you brought along a turtle on a leash.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:46 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


And spats. Don't forget spats. It couldn't possibly be a gentlemens' pursuit otherwise.
posted by Ghidorah at 7:53 AM on September 14, 2012


While I do like the idea of sauntering as a sport,expecially if it involves turtles or maybe even lobsters. For the french, suantering must have been an end in itself but being an american I would have to add an element of competition. I certainly don't want to be a hipster though so I must simply decry all forms of walking.
posted by Ad hominem at 7:55 AM on September 14, 2012


That was a fantastic article. Thanks for sharing it!
posted by sevenyearlurk at 8:05 AM on September 14, 2012


expecially

Cmon autocrrect, do your job. I tap, you correct.

At any rate, thanks for the article. I full intend to saunter a few laps around the central park reservoir today.
posted by Ad hominem at 8:12 AM on September 14, 2012


It's things like this which make me come to the conclusion that the Victorian era was full of batshit crazy people.

Also, it makes me think of the Chap Olympiad
posted by MrBear at 8:19 AM on September 14, 2012


*checking right now on movie rights*

a body resembling "a baked potato stuck with two toothpicks"

... I smell a wacky Toy Story spin-off, a prequel by centuries even! An all-star cast of vintage toys voiced by an all-star cast of Hollywood notables!


how is this story not the figurehead for the anti-obesity, walk more and drive less ideals that we're trying to restore here in the US?

People are generally impatient. Walking a mile to the bus is a long haul. A "walkable community" is considered to have amenities and employment within a quarter to half mile from housing. 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours? That's why we have cars! (Or at least bicycles.)

Also, the bloody feet of a true pedestrian competitor are usually seen as negative features, when trying to promote healthy living to the activity-adverse. On this tangent, I've heard of a number of competitive long-distance runners who continue to run despite a serious injury sustained while in a competition, if it meant they could actually win. At my high school, a cross country coach was this sort of person, ending her running career to win a race.


Regarding the attire for sports in centuries past, more active sports usually require more casual attire, at least the spectators had the decency to dress up.
posted by filthy light thief at 8:33 AM on September 14, 2012


Great post. I heard this story a long time ago and it was one inspiration for my cross-country walk in 2011. Walking a long way is difficult.
posted by 3200 at 8:57 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


" . . . One of those fevered American lives that seem to hurtle from one beautiful strangeness to the next" indeed! Thanks for posting this.
posted by emhutchinson at 9:12 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I love this. A fascinating read. It makes my modern day hiking feats seem like child's play! Knowing I could be out-walked by a 71-year-old man in Victorian shoes is quite the ego check.
posted by geeky at 9:42 AM on September 14, 2012


Good job posting this on a Friday. I know I'm not the only MeFite thinking "You know what? I'm going to take a walk tomorrow."
posted by Ian A.T. at 9:44 AM on September 14, 2012


I've been making a concerted effort to walk more places lately; I'm a SAHM, my older kid is in full-day school now, and on many days, I have the time. I have a grocery store literally a quarter mile away, albeit down a pretty steep hill. Our quirky little suburban main street is about a mile away, my best friend's house is 3/4 of a mile. Even the gym is only 2 miles away. The weather is gorgeous, the car is a nuisance, gas is expensive, and I have a lot of weight to lose, why am I not walking?

When I first started doing this, I was astounded at how shattered I was after a relatively short walk. Again, my neighborhood is pretty hilly, I'm pretty fat, and I'm pushing my 2 year old in a jogging stroller, but -- my low back is tired? Really? My shoulders? My inner thighs? I walked like a mile and a half! And the first time I walked to the gym, worked out, and walked back, I basically had to go right to bed. And the HUNGER, my god, you begin to understand how the People of Old could eat such giant meals, they were walking everywhere!

It's gotten easier over the past month or so, and I've not-coincidentally dropped about fifteen pounds in that month. I've also learned the subtle ways in which a walking environment can go from welcoming to hostile to downright challenging -- I'm looking at YOU, neighbor who lets their spruce tree grow over 3/4 of the sidewalk, and at YOU, developers who put the slant of the driveway in the sidewalk so that I have to wrench the stroller to the side to keep it from toppling over, and at YOU, drivers who make a right turn on red without bothering to see that there is a person pushing a stroller through the crosswalk. My 2-mile walk to the gym includes about a quarter of a mile where it's clear that pedestrians are only grudgingly tolerated, and that quarter mile seems longer than the whole rest of the walk.

I love walking. I don't do all the walking I possibly could, but I'm getting closer to that goal. But damn, there could be a lot more institutional support and city planning that would help me and people like me out.
posted by KathrynT at 10:01 AM on September 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm just walking!

That guy is now walking every street in NYC.
posted by kenko at 11:37 AM on September 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sauntering should be scored on style.
posted by yonega at 11:52 PM on September 14, 2012


« Older Victorious Vocabulary...  |  Could the Low Line be joining ... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments