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Showdown at Shepherd's Bush: The 1908 Olympic Marathon and the Three Runners Who Launched a Sporting Crazeby David Davis
Synopses & Reviews
The epic clash of an Irish-American, Italian, and Onondaga-Canadian that jump-started the first marathon mania and heralded the modern age in sports
The eyes of the world watched as three runners—dirt poor Johnny Hayes, who used to run barefoot through the streets of New York City; candymaker Dorando Pietri; and the famed Tom Longboat—converged for an epic battle at the 1908 London Olympics. The incredible finish was contested the world over when Pietri, who initially ran the wrong way upon entering the stadium at Shepherds Bush, finished first but was disqualified for receiving aid from officials after collapsing just shy of the finish line, thus giving the title to runner-up Hayes. In the midst of anti-American sentiment, Queen Alexandra awarded a special cup to Pietri, who became an international celebrity and inspired one of Irving Berlins first songs. In Showdown at Shepherd's Bush, David Davis recalls a time when runners braved injurious roads with slips of leather for shoes and when marathon mania became a worldwide obsession. Standing next to Cait Murphys Crazy 08 as an invaluable look at a bygone sporting era, Showdown at Shepherd's Bush is a dramatic narrative aimed at the recordsetting number of marathon participants in the United States (more than 500,000 in 2010!) and timed nicely for the return of the Olympics to London in 2012.
On his seventieth birthday in 1909, a slim man with a shock of white hair, a walrus mustache, and a spring in his step faced west from Park Row in Manhattan and started walking. By the time Edward Payson Weston was finished, he was in San Francisco, having trekked 3,895 miles in 104 days.
Westonand#8217;s first epic walk across America transcended sport. He was and#8220;everymanand#8221; in a stirring battle against the elements and exhaustion, tramping along at the pace of someone decades younger. Having long been Americaand#8217;s greatest pedestrian, he was attempting the most ambitious and physically taxing walk of his career. He walked most of the way alone when the car that he hired to follow him kept breaking down, and he often had to rest without adequate food or shelter. That Weston made it is one of the truly great but forgotten sports feats of all time. Thanks in large part to his daily dispatches of his travailsand#8212;from blizzards to intense heat, rutted roads, bad shoes, and illnessand#8212;Westonand#8217;s trek became a wonder of the ages and attracted international headlines to the sport called and#8220;pedestrianism.and#8221;
Aided by long-buried archival information, colorful biographical details, and Westonand#8217;s diary entries, Walk of Ages is more than a book about a man going for a walk. It is an epic tale of beating the odds and a penetrating look at a vanished time in America.
About the Author
DAVID DAVIS is a contributing writer at Los Angeles Magazine and a contributing editor for SportsLetter. His work has appeared in Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian Magazine, The New York Times and The Best American Sports Writing anthology. He lives in Glassell Park, CA.
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History and Social Science » World History » General