History of Multiday Running

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The golden era of multiday races stretches back to the 1870s and 1880s, when they were held on indoor tracks and offered substantial prizes. Known as pedestrians, these athletes established records which, in some cases have stood until recently. In summer 1809 in Newmarket, England, Robert Barclay Allardyce, better known as Captain Barclay, ran/walked one mile for each consecutive hour, each consecutive day, totalling 1,000 miles.

The most common multiday race of the era was the six day race, which ran from Monday to Saturday with Sunday being observed as a rest day. In 1878, Sir John Dugdale Astley was inspired to create a series of five international six day races, in which competitors vied for the Astley Belt. Two early competitors were the American Edward Payson Weston, who covered 500 miles (804 km) in 6 days. The Englishman Charles Rowell covered 241 km in the first day of a 6 day races in the 1880s.

By the early 1890s, public enthusiasm for such events had moved into bicycle racing, and the multiday running craze came to an end. Interest grew again in the late 1920s, with the advent of Trans-America races. These events were trans-continental stage races that inspired a new generation to challenge the huge distance. There was little reward for these races in the long run, and it was not until 1980s that interest re-awoke in true multi-day races.

Recent History

1975 saw the first 1000 mile race for almost a century take place in Australia, a competition which turned into a battle between Siegfried Bauer of New Zealand and John Ball of South Africa with Bauer finally setting a new record of 12 days 21:46:30. In 1980, San Francisco postal delivery worker Don Choi organized the first modern era six day race, on a track in Woodside, California. In 1981 & 82 six day races took place in Nottingham, UK, Sydney to Melbourne Westfield's Ultramarathon took place in Australia May 1983 and the Colac 6 day race was also born in 1983. In 1985 The Sri Chinmoy Marathon Team hosted a 1000 mile race in the Spring in New York and so began their illustrious history.

See also