History's Weirdest Sports
History’s Weirdest Sports

History’s Weirdest Sports

Tim Flight - September 7, 2018

History’s Weirdest Sports
Foster Powell was simply wonderful at walking, England, late 18th century. Wikimedia Commons.

20. The Victorians loved walking so much that they invented a sport of competitive rambling

Charles Dickens, the famous writer, would frequently walk the 30 miles from his home in Kent to his London residence, and think nothing of it. Amazingly, this was far from remarkable behavior in his day, for the strange sport of Pedestrianism, competitive long-distance walking, was already very much in vogue. The sport was so popular that there were even professional pedestrians who were amongst the most famous people in the country. Although organized race walking is an Olympic sport today, Pedestrianism was comically low-key, and simply involved walking from place to place across the country as fast as possible.

One of the most famous pedestrians was Foster Powell (above), who once walked 50 miles in 7 hours in 1764. This event, undertaken for a wager, made the sport a national obsession, and Powell went on walk the 396 miles between London and York in 140 hours. Robert Barclay Allardice turned the sport into a lucrative event, and made vast sums by achieving such feats as walking 1, 000 miles in 1,000 hours. With no formal organization, the sport was funded entirely by wagers, and spectators thronged the public byways to catch a glimpse of a solitary man… walking.


Where did we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

Armitage, John. Man at Play: Nine Centuries of Pleasure Making. London: F. Warne, 1977.

Brooke-Hitching, Edward. Fox-Tossing, Octopus Wrestling, and Other Forgotten Sports. London: Simon & Schuster, 2015.

Collins, Tony, John Martin, and Wray Vamplew, eds. Encyclopedia of Traditional British Rural Sports. London: Routledge, 2005.

Daniel, William Barker. Rural Sports. London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, & Orme, 2011.

Gerken, James. “Dung Spitting Competition Is A Crappy Way To Prove Yourself”, The Huffington Post, July 21st 2015.

Reeves, A.C. Pleasures and Pastimes in Medieval England. Stroud: Sutton, 1995.

Walsh, J. H. British Rural Sports: Comprising Shooting, Hunting, Coursing, Fishing, Hawking, Racing, Boating, Pedestrianism, with All Rural Games and Amusements. London: Frederick Warn, 1867.