Saturday, 11 August 2012

I Would Walk Five Hundred Miles and I Would Walk Five Hundred More

                        If you want to emulate the feats of Thomas Topham – the British Samson - you may need to enter into a training regime. Captain Barclay – The Celebrated Pedestrian (more of whom below), recommended the following method of training, and it can be found in Donald Walker’s book Manly Exercises (1860). 

Title Page - Donald Walker - Manly Exercises - 1860

The first step is to purge the body by physic – this means taking a dose of Glauber’s salt, of one and a half to two ounces, three times with an interval of four days between doses. Glauber’s salt, named after the German apothecary Johann Glauber who discovered it, is decahydrate sodium sulphate, a popular laxative in the past. When purged properly, the training proper begins. The prospective pedestrian must rise at five o’clock in the morning and run half a mile uphill at top speed, followed by a six-mile walk at a moderate pace. At seven o’clock, the walker comes in for breakfast – this is either beefsteaks or underdone mutton chops, with stale bread and some old beer. 

How to walk - from Walker Manly Exercise 1860

After breakfast, another six-mile walk at a moderate pace follows, and at twelve noon the walker must lie in his bed, without clothes, for half and hour. Upon rising, there is another moderately paced walk of four miles and at four o’clock is dinnertime – again beefsteaks or mutton chops with bread and beer. Immediately after dinner, the athlete must again run half a mile at top speed and walk six more miles at a moderate pace. Then, in Walker’s words, “He takes no more exercise for that day, but retires to bed about eight; and next morning he proceeds in the same manner”. 

How to Run - from Walker Manly Exercise 1860

Walker is very specific about the diet – beef or mutton are preferred, and the meat must be lean and fresh, roasted or broiled rare, with a little salt, although roasted chicken legs may be eaten. The only ‘vegetable’ matter allowed is either bread or biscuit, and seasonings and spiceries are prohibited. The intake of fluids should be limited to what will quench the thirst; cold home-brewed, old beer (not bottled) is best, although half a pint of red wine can be substituted at dinner. The athlete, according to his appetite, decides on how much is eaten. This is repeated daily for three or four weeks, after which comes the sweating; the pre-breakfast exercise is replaced by a four mile run, at top speed, dressed in flannel, after which he returns home and drinks a pint of hot, sweating liquor, made by boiling an ounce each of caraway and liquorice root, with half an ounce each of coriander and sugar-candy, in two pints of cider until the volume is reduced by half. 

How to Throw a Discus - from Walker Manly Exercise 1860

The pedestrian is then put into a feather bed, still in the flannels, and covered by six or eight blankets. After half an hour, the athlete is rubbed perfectly dry, dressed in a great coat, and walks quietly for two miles, after which it is breakfast time – which is now a whole roasted chicken. After breakfast, the normal training resumes. The sweating must be carried out once a week for the next three or four weeks, during which any additional time not spent training can be spent playing cricket, bowls, golf or throwing quoits, and after which the pedestrian is deemed to be in the highest condition and ready to compete. 

Captain Barclay walking.

Captain Barclay – Robert Barclay Allardice – known as The Celebrated Pedestrian was a famous Scottish walker and father of pedestrianism, an early form of race-walking. Long distance walking was extremely popular in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries; it featured at fairs, drawing great crowds and attracting bets and wagers. Barclay (of the banking family), undertook many feats of long distance walking, his most notable being a walk of 1,000 miles done in 1,000 successive hours, from June 1st to July 12th 1809, at Newmarket, in order to win a wager of 1,000 guineas. 
He breakfasted at 5 a.m., when he ate a roasted fowl, drank a pint of strong ale, and then two cups of tea, with bread and butter. Lunch at twelve—the one day beef-steaks and the other mutton-chops, of which he ate a considerable quantity. He dined at six either on roast-beef or mutton-chops, and his drink was porter and two or three glasses of wine. He supped at eleven on cold fowl. In addition to the foregoing, he ate such vegetables as were in season, and the total quantity of animal food he took daily was from five to six pounds.” 
 James Glass Bertram Sporting Anecdotes 1889. 

Frontispiece - George Benedict - Handbook of Manly Sports 1883

That’s the way to win an empire – train your athletes on beef, bread and beer.


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