During the Regency, sport, gambling and trials of strength and stamina were woven into daily life at every level of society.
The Earl of March, or OldQ as he was also known, once bet that he could cause a letter to cover 50 miles in an hour. The bet was duly accepted, but generally deemed impossible to win – the fastest horses could only travel around 30 miles an hour over a short distance. Ingenious Lord March, however, had the letter enclosed in a cricket ball and had twenty cricketers stand in a measured circle throwing the ball as fast as they could between themselves. The distance was easily covered and the Earl ended up richer by 10,000 guineas.
‘Pedestrianism’, or walking wagers were one of the most popular events. These were competitions between two or more individuals or challenges accepted by one man. Captain Robert Barclay Allardice’s attempt to walk 1,000 miles in 1,000 hours for 1,000 guineas was one of the most famous.
In 1809 Captain Barclay was bet that he couldn’t walk 1000 miles in 1000 hours for 1000 Guineas – meaning he had to walk one mile in every consecutive hour 24 hours a day – the challenge therefore taking 42 days with the maximum an hour and 20 minutes sleep at any one time (if you walk back to back miles in different hours). During the 607th mile, Captain Barclay even needed his aide to beat him around the head and shoulders with a walking stick to keep him awake! He completed the challenge on 12th July 1809, losing three stone in the process, his challenge hailed as ‘one of the greatest human feats ever attempted.’*
And – WOW – in 2009, exactly 200 years on since Captain Barclay’s feat of endurance, champion jockey, polar explorer and BBC presenter, Richard Dunwoody MBE is recreating this amazing challenge!! Richard is walking the same mile 1000 times in Newmarket – 1000 miles in 1000 hours but this time to raise a substantial sum for charity – Alzheimer’s Society, SPARKS, Racing Welfare and Spinal Research.
Fortunately, Richard’s aids in completing the challenge will be an ipod and a Blackberry, rather than Captain Barclay’s brace of pistols and a stick to be beaten with to keep awake!
Do check out the web-site for this fantastic challenge here or by clicking on the image above, and follow Richard’s progress through the Richard Dunwoody-Challenge page on Facebook, and on Twitter. Most importantly, please make a donation which will benefit some very worthy charities. Oh, and some famous faces are walking the miles with him!
The challenge ends on 10th July 2009 when Richard will be doing his last mile up the home straight of Newmarket racecourse at approx 2.20pm before the Ladbrokes Bunbury Cup.
*from The Celebrated Captain Barclay by Peter Radford
Part 3 will be posted tomorrow and will include the story and photographs of another 2009 Regency wager recreation … the famous Coughton Coat!