New Biography Sheds Light on the Forgotten Pioneer of Endurance Sport

The story of a dreamer, schemer and ladies man, who met with presidents and royalty, crooks and knaves, A Man in a Hurry is one man's athletic journey from the Gold Rush to the Jazz Age.

James Corbett
By James Corbett
2 May 2024
New Biography Sheds Light on the Forgotten Pioneer of Endurance Sport

A new edition of the biography of the Victorian endurance athlete, Edward Payson Weston  "A Man in a Hurry" is published by Mount Vernon next week. 

Co-authored by journalist Nick Harris, his late wife, Helen, and the historian Paul Marshall, the book is a captivating read about the incredible life of one of the most celebrated athletes of the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  Their work offers a detailed portrait of an icon who once drew crowds by the hundreds of thousands but has since slipped into the shadows of history.

Weston, known for his charismatic personality and extraordinary feats of endurance, embarked on one of his most remarkable adventures in 1910, completing a 3,100-mile walk from California to New York at the age of 71. This journey, finished in just 77 days, was not just a testament to his physical stamina but also a spectacle that drew massive public attention.

Weston’s era was the dawn of professional walking or "pedestrianism," a sport that saw competitors walk vast distances around specially constructed tracks, often for days on end. It was an era when walking races were among the biggest spectator sports, drawing massive crowds who would watch, gamble, and revel in the endurance of the walkers.

This biography explores how Weston became a prime mover in this once-glorious sport, which enthralled  both the United States and Britain. His rise to fame was accidental, spurred by a lost bet on the 1860 U.S. Presidential election which resulted in him walking 478 miles from Boston to Washington D.C. to witness Abraham Lincoln's inauguration.

Beyond his public exploits, the book delves into Weston's personal life, from his ventures in journalism and self-promotion to his turbulent private affairs. His life was marked by highs and lows, from his influential friendships with figures like P.T. Barnum to a personal life rife with scandal and heartache.

Weston's story is not just about the miles he walked but the times he lived through, from the Gold Rush to the Jazz Age, and the impact he had on sports and public entertainment. "A Man in a Hurry" not only revives the legacy of Edward Payson Weston but also paints a vivid picture of an era when walking was more than just a pastime—it was a phenomenon. 

This biography promises to be a compelling read for anyone interested in the history of sports, the evolution of celebrity culture, or tales of extraordinary human achievement. Weston was also a forerunner of the endurance athletes that are making an increasingly significant impact on today’s sporting landscape. As much a historical document as it is an engaging narrative, this book brings Edward Payson Weston back into the limelight, celebrating a man who walked his way into the annals of history.

Further Reading