The Marathon on Stilts

This fascinating photograph from Retronaut is from a stilt race that took place in France in 1892. Sports Illustrated published an account of the race in 1971. It seems that stilt-walking was commonplace among shepherds in Les Landes, an area in the southwest of France where the terrain made it difficult to watch sheep on foot or horseback. The race was organized as a newspaper promotion. The route was from Bordeaux to Biarritz and back -490 kilometers, or 309 miles! On May 26, 69 men took off, while 18 women on stilts ran a shorter route so they could be home in time to fix dinner. The race organizers thought the stilt-walkers would stop at night to sleep, but the competitors had other ideas. There were many bets placed, and the race was won by one of the favorites: Pierre Deycard, a woodcutter from Salles.

It was a weary and long-drawn-out procession indeed that dragged into Bordeaux on the next day, May 30. Deycard, almost dozing on his long legs, was completing the 309-mile trip in just over 100 hours at an average speed of three miles an hour. The organizers had estimated eight days for the race: Deycard needed less than five. Sixty cyclists, hundreds of pedestrians and a brass band traveled to the suburbs of Bordeaux to meet him. Jean Lafont, the paper-mill worker from St.-Eulalie, came a close second. Four hours behind followed the stocky, 4'11" Antoine Dugrand, to gain third place, resplendent in a scarlet waistcoat, a wet handkerchief over his head and a scarlet beret on top of that.   

Read more about this unusual competition at SI. Link -via John Walkenbach

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