Topical History

History of Walking

Early History

Walking has been around for millions of years. Australopithecus afarensis began the fad of two-legged walking, the defining trait of family Hominidae. Two-legged walking frees up the hands to use for making tools, tying shoes, etc. Before the invention of sneakers, North American natives made sandals with sling backs and slip-ons the most popular styles.

Competitive race walking dates back to 2500 B.C through Egyptian hieroglyphics and also evidence points to competitions in early Greek civilizations.

Historical Milestones

100 AD: Emperor Hadrian tours his whole empire on foot, marching 21 miles a day in full armor. The measurement Mile = 1000 military paces, paces being two steps.

1589: Sir Robert Carey walks 300 miles from London to Berwick on a wager. Wagering on walking was big and involved large sums of money.

1600's: King Charles II of England racewalked from Whitehall to Hampton Court.

1762: John Hague walked 100 miles in 23 hours, 15 minutes.

1809: Captain Robert Barclay walks 1000 miles in 1000 hours. The walk was done on a measured mile at Newmarket Heath, and was the subject of an estimated 100,000 wagers and before large crowds. He was the last Laird of Urie and noted for his many walks in the Scottish hills.

1864: Black Forest Wanderverein formed - now world's oldest surviving walking club.

1860-1903: the Pedestrian Age - walking is the leading sport in Europe and America. Big money comes to walking as long distance walkers earn more per race than today's basketball players, the equivalent of 100 years of salary of the day.

1861: Edward Payson Weston's, "the father of modern pedestrianism" has his first major walk. The walk occurred because he bet that President Lincoln would lose the 1860 election. Lincoln won and Weston walked from Boston to the inauguration in Washington DC.

1866: Walkers organized the first English amateur walking championship, which was won by John Chambers, and judged by the "fair heel and toe" rule.

1874: Weston walks 500 miles in six consecutive days. Daniel O'Leary breaks his record and becomes "Champion Pedestrian of the World." These competitions lead to the Astley Belt Races.

1879: Charles Rowell earns $50,000 in two 6-day Astley Belt Races.

1879: First women's 6-day race is won by Bertha Von Berg, with a distance of 372 miles and $1000 purse.

1904: Racewalking first appeared in the modern Olympics as a half-mile walk in the 'all-rounder,' the precursor to the 10-event decathlon.

1906: Athens Olympics (Interim Games – not recognized as Official Games) - 1500m Walk Olympic record set by George Bonhag, USA 7:12:6. 3000m Walk won by Gyorgy Sztantics, Hungary 15:13.2.

1908: 1500m and 3000m racewalks were added, and—excluding 1924—there has been at least one racewalk (for men) in every Olympics since.

1909: The Nijmegen Vierdaagse (Four-Days Walk) is hosted for the first time.

1911: First US racewalk held on Coney Island.

1969: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walk on moon.

1970: First March of Dimes held in Columbus, Ohio.

1990's: Walking is the most popular form of exercise in the USA, with 65 million regular walkers. It exceeds all other forms of exercise.

1992: Women’s racewalk became an Olympic event after years of active lobbying by female internationals.

1996: America Walks is founded by four local groups who believed that local grassroots advocacy is necessary to help transform our country’s transportation system. America Walks is a non-profit organization dedicated to promoting walkable communities.

1999/2000: Millennium Walks and World Walking Day Walks held worldwide.

2003: Breast Cancer 3-Day debuted

2010: CDC reports more Americans are walking. 62% as compared to 56% in 2005.

Olympic Race Walking Records

20K men's world record is 1:17:16 set by Vladimir Kanaykin of Russia

20K women's world record at 1:24:50 set by Olimpiada Ivanova of Russia

50K (31 miles) men's world record of 3:34:14 set by Denis Nizhegorodov of Russia