NBA, NFL, MLB, ESPN: Back before an alphabet soup of acronyms captivated the hearts and minds of the American public, entertainment-starved citizens were transfixed by a spectator sport that no longer exists: Pedestrianism.
As odd as it may sound today, in the mid-19th-century, watching people walk, competitively, provided hours of fun for throngs of people. Plus, it made some of those who competed in the sport both famous–and rich. Pedestrian competitions lasted for days, and, improbably, so did many of the competitors. (Especially given that Champagne and eel juice were choice fuels for many of the competitive walkers.)
Writer Matthew Algeo explores this forgotten sport, and its influence on the contemporary sports culture, in his new book from Chicago Review Press, “Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Spectator Sport.” We caught up with him to discuss the curiosity: