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pedestrianism


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A term referring to competitive walking or running contests, popular and prominent from the late 17th to the early 19th century in Britain. Individuals were professionals, competing for prize money or as representatives of gentlemen who were wagering sums on the outcome of the race. Prominent pedestrians included Foster Powell and Captain Barclay. Pedestrianism was also associated with the manipulation of the outcome of the race, and as such was morally disapproved of by the proponents of amateurism and athleticism. Pedestrian contests were predominantly between males, but also took place between females. Pedestrianism was the most popular sport in the USA from the 1830s up to the 1860s (when the Civil War began), and attracted top professional runners from England. Local sports entrepreneurs would offer prize monies for set challenges, some, in the 1840s, for as much as a thousand dollars, attracting forty thousand spectators. Allen Guttmann observes that the standardization of equipment and the design of ‘measured tracks’ undermined pedestrianism's model of ‘challenge matches for high stakes’, and pedestrianism in the USA was superseded by ‘an American equivalent of the Oxford-Cambridge athletics meets’ (Sports: The First Five Millennia, 2001).

Subjects: Sport and Leisure.


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