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Feb 1, 2021

Author Geoff Williams (C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America) joins for the stranger-than-fiction story of the cross-country long-distance running event/endurance contest that only the Roarin' 20s could have spawned.
On March 4, 1928, a motley assortment of nearly 200 marathon pros, amateur sports enthusiasts and random publicity-seekers took to the starter's pistol from Los Angeles' Legion Ascot Speedway to begin an incredible 3,423-mile trek (half of it on a brand-new Route 66 highway) to New York's Madison Square Garden as part of the "C.C. Pyle International Transcontinental Foot Race of 1928" dubbed the "Bunion Derby" by the sports press - in pursuit of their share of a combined $48,500 in cash prizes offered by archetypal sports promoter Charles C. ("Cash & Carry") Pyle.
Pyle was the P.T. Barnum of sports promotion, who first came into prominence by convincing collegiate football standout Red Grange to turn pro. Grange helped Pyle make a fortune, which he later parlayed into a similar turn promoting the first professional US tennis tour, converting top amateurs like Suzanne Lenglen.
But it was the transcontinental ultra-marathon concept that would be Pyle's legacy: "It will be the greatest free show ever offered the American public," Pyle boasted. "The runners will go through hundreds of towns, each of which will be assessed for advertising. Thousands will flock to these towns to see the runners. We'll sell them programs and tickets to our traveling side show."

On May 26, just 55 survivors stumbled into the Garden, where a 19-year-old Oklahoma Native American named Andrew Payne crossed the finish line to win - an 84-day journey comprising a total running time of 573 hours, 4 minutes and 34 seconds - a roughly 16-hour lead over second-place finisher John Salo of Passaic, NJ.

The prize money was held up for a week, but was finally doled out by fellow promoter Tex Rickard, who bailed out Pyle from an estimated $150,000 loss on the endeavor.  Incredibly, Pyle came back for a second (and ultimately final) run in 1929 - with similar results.