Walking a mile in a hour sounds straightforward. Walking ten miles in ten hours sounds reasonably doable, even leisurely. How about walking a mile in each of one thousand successive hours – ie walking a thousand miles at the stately pace of 1 mph, for hour after hour after hour after hour (continue up to 1000)?
Robert Barclary Allardice is aptly described in the opening line of his Dictionary of National Biography entry as:
Allardice, Robert Barclay [known as Captain Barclay] (1779-1854), pedestrian
Captain Barclay’s most noted feat was walking 1 mile in each of 1000 successive hours. This feat was performed at Newmarket from 1 June to 12 July 1809. His average time of walking the mile varied from 14 min. 54 sec. in the first week to 21 min. 4 sec. in the last, and his weight was reduced from 13 stone 4 lb to 11 stone. He was so little exhausted that he started for the Walcheren expedition on 17 July in perfect health
- The gentleman on Wednesday completed his arduous pedestrian undertaking, to walk a thousand miles in a thousand successive hours, at the rate of a mile in each and every hour. He had until four o’clock P.M. to finish his task; but he performed his last mile in the quarter of an hour after three, with perfect ease and great spirit, amidst an immense concourse of spectators. The influx of company had so much increased on Sunday, that it was recommended that the ground should be roped in. To this, Captain Barclay at first objected; but the crowd became so great on Monday, and he had experienced so much interruption, that he was at last prevailed upon to allow this precaution to be taken. For the last two days he appeared in higher spirits, and performed his walk with apparently more ease, and in shorter time than he had done for some days before. With the change of the weather, he had thrown off his loose great coat, which he wore during the rainy period, and on Wednesday performed in a flannel jacket. He also put on shoes thicker than any which he had used in the earlier part of his performance. He said that during the first night after his walk he would have himself awoke twice or thrice, to avoid the danger of a too sudden transition from almost constant exertion to a state of long repose.
- One hundred to one, and indeed any odds whatever, were offered on Wednesday; but so strong was the confidence in his success, that no bets could be obtained. The multitude of people who resorted to the scene of action, in the course of the concluding days, was unprecedented. Not a bed could be procured on Tuesday night at Newmarket, Cambridge, or any of the towns and villages in the vicinity, and every horse and every species of vehicle was engaged. Among the Nobility and Gentry who witnessed the conclusion of this extraordinary feat, were:—
- The Dukes of Argyle and St. Alban’s; Earls Grosvenor, Bessborough and Jersey; Lords Foley and Somerville; Sir John Lode, Sir F. Standish, &c. &c.
- Capt Barclay had a large sum depending upon his undertaking. The aggregate of the bets is supposed to amount to £100,000.—He commenced his feat on the first of June.
55 years later, Emma Sharp overcame various acts of skullduggery to become the first woman to achieve the same feat and thereby raise monies to buy a rug making enterprise:
Emma Sharp (1832–1920) was an athlete famous for her feat of pedestrianism completing a 1000-mile walk in 1000 hours, the event first completed by Robert Barclay Allardice in 1809. She is thought to be the first woman to complete the challenge, finishing on 29 October 1864, having started on 17 September that same year. This ‘arduous task’ was reported in the newspapers of the day, in which she was described as having a medium build but an active frame, dressed in male clothing with the exception of her straw hat which was adorned with ‘feminine ornaments’.
She rested in the Quarry Gap pub in between walking approximately two mile stints every 90 minutes and completing 14,600 laps of 120 yards over the course of 1000 hours. It is reported that her food was drugged and people attempted to trip her to prevent her from finishing, for the last two days she carried a pistol to protect herself. At the end of the walk the weather was extremely wet. The event was heavily wagered upon both in Leeds and provincial towns.
One wonders when the last 1000 miles in 1000 hours walk took place? It strikes me as an event ripe for reviving….