March 4 was race day in 1928.
And what a race it was: about 200 runners in Los Angeles set out to run all the way to New York City.
It was the Trans-America Foot Race, also known as the Transcontinental Foot Race, nicknamed the “Bunion Derby” by skeptical newspaper writers.
And there was a lot to be skeptical about: 3,422 miles is a long way to run, after all, even in Tour de France-like stages.
But the 1920s were full of extreme endurance events, and the race organizer, C.C. Pyle had promised to take care of food and lodging for the runners, as well as big cash prizes for the winners.
The conditions were,shall we say, not as advertised: the runners were often hungry, tired and cold.
Plus they had to try to sleep while Pyle put on essentially a kind of carnivalfor race-watchers, including belly dancers, a glass eater, a five-legged pig, a two-headed chicken and football star Red Grange.
No wonder only 55 runners out of the original 200 or so were able to finish.
Still, there was plenty of talent in the race, including some elite athletes of the time.
And it was an integrated event: three of the top ten runners were people of color, who endured prejudice and violence along with the hardships of the competition, but proved they could compete successfully with white athletes.
The winner was a 20 year old man of Cherokee descent, Andy Payne of Oklahoma, who took a slow and steady approach to running.
He won $25,000 and huge acclaim that lasts to this day.
There’s a stretch of historic Route 66 in Oklahoma known as Andy Payne Boulevard.
After that grueling race I’m ready for a chill walking tour.
Since it was today in 1791 that Vermont became a state, let’s take a look at The Long Trail, a 272 mile hike through the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts line to the border with Quebec.
Ok, 272 miles isn’t always chill, but you don’t have to do the whole trail at once!
Endurance Racing: First Leg, the Bunion Derby (New York Public Library)
The Long Trail (Green Mountain Club)
Photo: “Portable radio station” for the Transcontinental Footrace, via Wikicommons