E.P. Weston - Marshall
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Monday, 26 January 2009 14:02

EDWARD PAYSON WESTON  (1839 - 1929)  PIONEERING LONG-DISTANCE ULTRA HIKER

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 By P. S. Marshall

 

Many of you reading this will have probably never heard of Edward Payson Weston, but when you have read it, I am confident that this great man's label as possibly the worlds greatest ever walker will make you want to discover more about him!

So who was Edward Payson Weston? Where did he come from and what exactly did he achieve during his long career as the “walking sensation” of the 19th and 20th centuries?

Described as the “purest walker of all time”, Weston was born in Providence, Rhode Island on March the 15th 1839. His first claim to fame in relation to the use of his legs came when he worked as an attaché for the New York Herald. The 19-year-old, who was given a job of delivering a box of flowers to the railway station by the editor, got his departure timings mixed up and had to run from the office in pursuit of the horse–drawn wagon, which was taking them to the train. After a hard chase, and against all the odds, he caught it up and was given a reward by his employer for his endeavours.

Two years later in 1860, “Eddy” made a bet that he could walk from Boston, Massachusetts to Washington, D.C. in 10 days, a journey of 478 miles in time for the inauguration of President Lincoln –  the prize – a jar of peanuts!

Setting off in 1861, Weston managed to cover the distance followed by a team of observers in a horse-drawn carriage albeit four hours behind time, but what was remarkable was that he estimated that he had actually covered 510 miles in the allotted time.

Then in 1867 Weston made a bet that he could hike from Portland to Chicago in 26 days - a distance of 1,226 miles. Despite failing to walk 100 miles in a day, which was part of the agreement he had entered into, he nevertheless made it in time and when he got to the windy city, he received a reception fit for a king! Thousands upon thousands turned up to cheer the sensation of the day through the streets. The heaving crowds presence was nothing new to him – he was used to their adoration.

The “peoples” interest in him was phenomenal. They loved him! He was good looking, intelligent, articulate and well mannered - an enigmatic character who everyone just had to see, or even better meet! Dressed in the most remarkable costumes he would walk at a rapid pace in front of the carriage chased by hundreds of well-wishers:

“He wears a suit of blue flannel jacket and knee breeches, red woollen stockings, and high laced boots, with heavy soles, ruffled shirt and hat of white corded silk lined with cork. Around his waist he wears a broad canvas belt and when passing through a city he wears white cotton gloves.”

In January of 1869, he failed in his ambition to hike 5,000 miles in 100 days giving up the attempt on the 36th day.

In 1875 the “Wily Wobbler” travelled over to England, where almost a quarter of a million people paid to see him perform as he took on the best athletes the “mother country” could throw at him.

Appearing at various locations “against time”, he then prepared himself for a second 6-day on-track encounter with Daniel O’Leary of Chicago in London in March of 1877 – watched by as many as 30,000 people in one day!

EP Weston portraitIn early 1879, he then made an attempt to hike 2,000 miles in 1,000 hours around the shires of England. Again, he was mobbed wherever he went and he blamed the people’s enthusiasm to see him for his failure in scoring the required amount by 23 miles!

He then went on to surprise everybody by taking the international version of the Astley Belt back to the United States in June of the same year with a new world record of 550 miles in six days!

Weston then went on to hike 5,000 miles in 100 days between November of 1883 and March of 1884. Two thousand of those miles were performed in buildings, but the rest were made on the roads of England.

Another challenge against O’Leary in 1885 over 2,500 miles in the USA saw him beating his old foe – easily!

Weston would go on indulging in ultra long distance hikes well into his eighties. Indeed, in his early seventies, he walked from Los Angeles to New York in 76 days, but all those achievements are another incredible story…….

A full and definitive account of Weston’s career up till 1886 is fully described in King of the Peds by P. S. Marshall.

Full details can be found at www.kingofthepeds.com

Last Updated on Wednesday, 28 January 2009 13:23
 
 
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