Weston on Competition Rules

The judges' statement

In 1877, for a walking competition at Agricultural Hall, London, the judges prepared a document which included the following text: "We the undersigned, who have been appointed judges in the walking match between E.P. Weston and D. O'Leary... have mutually agreed to consider all walking fair so long as neither of the two competitors has both feet off the ground at the same time. We consider the disinction between running and walking to be the former is a succession of springs, in which both feet are off the ground at the same moment; the latter to be a succession of steps, in which it is essential that some part of one foot must always touch the ground."

Weston's proposal

Quoting P.S. Marshall from "King of the Peds," page 107, "Weston wouldn't sign the above document, stating that a further stipulation should be added that the toes of one foot should not leave the ground till the heel of the other was down."

Keeping contact with the ground

Considering the context of a race in which judges can penalize a walker (such as by deducting a lap or by disqualification), Weston was insisting on consistency in judging. In my opinion Weston was asking for, but did not receive, enforcement of the "double support phase" in a stride. This is the point during weight transfer when both feet simultaneously have contact with the ground. Weston must have known that, when you scoot or skim across the track, it's very easy to get air underneath the feet without being detected.

As a cross-country walker, Weston would certainly have scooted, leapt, or slipped from time to time. He is known to have walked backward as a way of resting his leg muscles. Therefore he must have been pointing out where his opponent Daniel O'Leary could gain a competitive advantage on the track.

Weston's all-around skills

Weston certainly did not always walk by these rules himself - as these adaptations show:

  • In 1878, when the Astley Belt was opened up to running, he stunned the world by jog-trotting to a new world record of 550 miles in six days.

  • An Oct. 27, 1907 article of the NY times indicated, "He walks down hills backward to relieve the strain of tense muscles..."