Edward Payson Weston was the man to beat.
Vivian Yess Wadlin tells us quite a lot about Weston.
Work in Progress

Before the professional sports move of the twentieth century, a few men, just men it seems, made a living challenging each other to foot races: walking races. The sport was eclipsed when the contestants began running and a new sport was born. One of the most celebrated was Edward Payson Weston, who walked coast to coast at age seventy, following the railroad tracks, since they were the best pedestrian roads at the time.

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Who in the world cares about walking?

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