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God must sure love joggers!

Updated: Apr 15

This opens an article in the August 30, 1978 Post Standard, admonishing runners to face

traffic and run single file. Unfortunately, one gets the impression from the tone of the piece that its author is more inconvenienced by having to share the road than concerned about the welfare of runners, and it’s not just because he uses the “J” word. Interestingly, historical evidence indicates that this sort of disdain for the physically active has ever been.


For instance, the December 10, 1860 edition of the Syracuse Journal, records Burt

Miller’s success at having completed 100 consecutive hours of walking, and concludes that

although he had shown “great strength of will and powers of endurance . . . there is very little in the performance that is commendable.” In the Syracuse Courier on June 23, 1879, the entire fad of “pedestrian competitions” was condemned because, “The practical question at the end of all this, ever recurs: To what use is all this expenditure of effort to be applied. It lines the pockets of the successful contestants, but shortens their lives and unfits them for more useful employments. This is the most that can be said. It is not much, and is not likely to be of lasting benefit to mankind.” A final example from 100 years B.G.: in the Syracuse Journal between April and October of 1878 appeared a series of articles on “The Wheelbarrow Idiot,” often also referred to as “the wheelbarrow lunatic.” This fellow wagered $1000 that he could walk pushing a wheelbarrow with a load of between 35 and 50 pounds from Albany, NY to San Francisco faster than a horse, figuring that horses typically averaged 19 miles a day of work.


So how was someone committed to feats of endurance with their feet to get respect . . . ?

The answer was if you did it to support your family OR to look for work OR after a day of

“honest” labor.


The wheelbarrow man turned out to be an unemployed upholsterer who had undertaken

his expedition “for the needs of his family.” “One thousand dollars for between one hundred and fifty and sixty days’ walking is pretty fair wages,” concluded the news coverage after he

successfully completed his trip.


Respect also was accorded the 14-year old Sarah Hewitt who entered a 160-mile walking contest in February 1893 “as her parents are poor and she wanted to assist in providing for the family’s welfare.” (She came in sixth, a spot that paid 5% of the $800 purse).


There was also a 70-year old African American who walked from Louisiana to Puget Sound in 1878 “for the purpose of getting employment,” and was judged to be deserving of “good wages for the remainder of his days” because of his feat.


A final example, there was James Brown, a 40-year old “dumper of engines at East Syracuse,” who in August 1879, after working “all of Wednesday night, dumping upwards of forty engines,” began his five trips back and forth between East Syracuse and “the Central round house” in Syracuse, a total of 50 miles that he covered in 11 hours and 55 minutes, at 6:00am the next day right after he was done with breakfast. His feat of endurance was judged as having “considerable merit” because he had done “a hard night’s work” before it.


Nearer the year of the Goat’s foundation in 1979 or 1AG, other legitimate reasons for

physical activity arose. Specifically, in June 1970 the Post Standard promoted the Salt City

Marathon, sponsored by the North Area YMCA, as an opportunity to “Jog Away Spare Tire.”

However, let’s face it: if you’re entering a marathon, your spare tire has been “jogged” away

long before that.


Another way to earn some respect from the physically inactive was to enter a race to represent the hometown, as evidenced by a Syracuse newspaper article from 1984 that praised the six “local women” who had entered the fifth annual Marine Corps Marathon, and

noted that, “More than 40 local runners are entered in the race.” So had there been a positive evolution of attitudes toward the physically active over the course of 100 years? Perhaps only if they trained running single file facing traffic.


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