Sunday, November 04, 2007

Williams provides riveting account of 1928 Bunion Derby

Books now read in ’07: 103
Title: C.C. Pyle’s Amazing Foot Race
Author: Geoff Williams
Genre: Running
Date Completed: 11-4
Pages: 303

In the spring of 1928 more than 200 hundred men set out from California for New York. Not in a car or train, but by foot. They were part of C.C. Pyle’s “Bunion Derby” – a transcontinental foot race. After two and one-half months of enduring heat and cold, blisters, shin splints, dogs, inattentive motorists and an unscrupulous promoter, 55 men actually completed the race. Andy Payne, a 20-year-old man from Oklahoma, was the winner.

Geoff Williams provides an interesting and thoroughly researched account of Pyle’s great foot race, although in candor the most interesting events took place off the roadway. Pyle was a shameless promoter whose only really goal was to make money off these hardy souls. He did not succeed. Instead, Pyle was hounded throughout the race by businesses and individuals seeking to collect on previous debts. In the meantime, the race participants suffered from his poor planning and general lack of funds – sleeping in unheated tents, having to scrounge for food and to forgo the simplest amenities such as showers or clean clothes.

As a runner who has completed four marathons and several “trans-state” runs, I cannot comprehend the magnitude of the accomplishment of these 55 men. Even more mind boggling, Pyle actually pulled off a second Bunion Derby in 1929 and several of the men who completed the race in 1928 repeated their effort.

The average reader won’t take much interest in Williams’ book. The average runner will.

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