Weston Vital Statistics & Health Habits
EDWARD PAYSON WESTON'S birth, career summary, and death
Born in Providence, RI, March 15, 1839, weight: 4 lbs 6 oz, he was described as "weak and sickly" in childhood.
During his 90-year lifetime, Weston pioneered Pedestrian sport and set records into his seventies. The dignitaries he met included Abraham Lincoln, Horace Greeley, Sir John Astley, the Prince of Wales, and prominent physicians fascinated with his endurance. His performances in Madison Square Garden, Agricultural Hall, and on cross-country walks in the USA and England, covering 50-100 miles per day except on Sunday, were reported world-wide.
Injured by a taxicab at age 88, confined to a wheelchair, and rescued from poverty by author Anne Nichols, he died in Brooklyn, NY, May 12, 1929 and was buried in St. John's Cemetery.
Weston's height was repeatedly given as 5' 7.5"
He gives his chest at 34: and his waist at 26.5" at the age of 21.
His weight at age 21: 130 pounds, age 28: 125 pounds, age 40, 140 pounds, and at age 69: under 150 pounds.
Note: Weston's unclothed weight in competition trim may have dipped to 120 pounds at one point.
One press account said, "he is slightly web-footed," perhaps refering to the width of his forefoot.
His walking boots were size 9, and his ordinary shoes "three sizes smaller," probably 7.5.
His leather boots extended up his calves, as equestrians tend to wear now (sometimes called sh*t-kickers) They were described as being of the regular army pattern, fixed to preserve his ankles, plack bottomed, with broad soles, low heels, and heavy. In 1867, it was reported that he sawed the wood and cut the pegs himself for the manufacturer, and that his father's favorite ox supplied the leather. In 1876 they are refered to as long square-toed Hessian boots.
A 1910 report said he wore a medium weight wool sock with enough silk in it to give it a velvety finish. (apparently a smooth wool-blend sock]
A 1926 article said the veteran wore lisle thread socks (apparently an extremely fine thread of cotton).
Early in Weston's career, it is reported more than once that he poured a dram of whiskey inside his boots by means of a funnel, to prevent his feet from chaffing or swelling. Later, the practice is not mentioned.
Weston sometimes had blisters in his 6-day races, but there is no report of his losing toenails or blisters breaking through to the bone, as happened with O'Leary and Littlewood respectively.
H.C. Long confirmed that Weston was troubled neither by blisters nor swelling after observing him for a month on his 1910 transcontinental walk. "I never even saw them feverish. They were always white and smooth, and much more like a girl's than a seventy-two year-old-walker's."
H.C. Long credits bathing the feet three times a day in witch hazel. Other reports mention rock salt baths: a "couple fistfuls of rock salt in six or eight quarts of water."
Some posed photographs give Weston the appearance of a large stomach. Perhaps he puffs out his chest while resting his weight on one hip in such cases. Other photographs and illustrations of him show different stances. Thus, these observations are inconclusive.
More than one writer and physician noted Weston's broad pelvis. The separation of his legs permitted a clean stride without chaffing. H.C. Long wrote that his legs were "shaped rather like a fowl's, without being in any way ungainly; when he walks... you can see daylight between the thighs from the knee to the perineum."
Four and a half miles per hour was Weston's easy pace.
Walking in 1867:
On Weston's 1867 walk from Portland, ME to Chicago, IL his observers logged the following information.
Weston entered Utica, NY at 6 miles per hour and departed Weedsport, NY at the rate of 126 steps per minute.
Near North East, PA he covered 6 miles in 55 minutes - only the horses kept pace with him at a "Methodist preacher's trot."
He traveled 16 miles into Girard, PA at a rate of 9 min 4 sec per mile.
Jog-trotting in 1879:
At the age of 40, Weston took up "jog-trotting" for the 6-day "go-as-you-please" 1879 Astley Belt, setting a world record of 550 miles in the process.
A 1907 New York Times article recounts, "The fastest miles he has ever walked were two miles in the match... on the last day, when he made the five hundredth mile in 7 minutes 51 seconds, and the next in 7 minutes, 50 seconds."
36 to 42 inches
"He spans six feet with his two feet with every step he takes."
"He steps out fully three and a half feet, with a light springing bound, planting down his foot firmly, and withdrawing it cleanly as a horse, and almost as rapidly."
about 100,000 miles.
21,000 miles - Young adult life, 3,000 miles per year for 7 years (10 miles, 300 days per year)
53,000 miles - Professional career up to 1879, stated in interview
31,000 miles - Professional and Post professional up to 1910, gleaned from interview
26,000 miles - Retirement, 1,500 miles per year for 17 years (5 miles, 300 days per year)
131,000 miles estimated total
These estimates are based on data referenced below. Allowing 5 miles per day, 300 days per year, for 80 years, computes to 125,200 miles.
(1) As a young man, Weston sold books all over Rhode Island on foot, and walked from Boston to Washington on a dare at more than 50 miles per day. Settling on the Hudson River, he walked to work daily, 16 miles round-trip.
(2) In a 1879 interview, Weston mentioned, "I have walked 53,000 miles in the last fourteen years..." This works out to 12.9 miles daily at 300 days per year, or 3,857 miles per year for 14 years.
(3) In 1910, H.C. Long gives the lifetime mileage as 84,000 miles.
(4) In other interviews, Weston indicated walking 10-15 miles daily during retirement. It is possible that, at the rate of 60 miles per week, Weston walked 45,000-50,000 miles during the remainder of his life.
SLEEP & FOOD ON WALKS
In the 1910 transcontinental walk, Weston typically rose at 4 am and took to the road by 5 am. He had two breakfasts, the second at 11 am. These consisted of poached egss on bread (not toast), butter, and wheat cakes (pancakes?) He liked strawberries when he could get them, othewise, he took prunes or slice oranges. "The griddle cakes... supply the body of the meal, and give him staying power... the eggs yield the vital strength."
After a nap in the afternoon, he usually walked until 9 pm and went directly to bed.
After resting on Sunday, he would get up at midnight and put in a big day on Monday. He liked a bowl of hot chocolate at daybreak and napped two hours on longer on Monday afternoons.
Weston snacked on graham crackers, sweet chocolate, apple or orange, or a bottle of sarsaparilla. He asked for "an egg and milk" two or three times a day, and cold coffee. He avoided fried food and didn't care for most vegetables. He typically ate meat only on Sundays, and then it had to be "ground fine" (hamburg?).
Sometimes he stopped for a light dinner, but usually got by on the fare supplied by his support vehicle, which went ahead of him by a mile at night and four miles in daylight.
As of 1909 Weston slept from 2am to 8am and after dinner for an hour and a half. He habitually walked 12-15 miles daily, except for Sunday. Since a bout with typoid in 1971, he had not been sick. Exercise cured any minor ailments within a day. Feeling some rheumatic twinges, he resumed his walking stunts as a way of banishing infirmities.
In 1913 he said, Walking is equivalent to sleep... it is the most healthful thing you can do.
In 1926 the veteran Weston said, Walking is Nature's remedy. It isn't exercise in the ordinary meaning of the word... it is more like a perfect massage. Walking wisely and regularly, you'll overcome aches and pains, sleep better and gain rugged health. Walking keeps a person always in condition without overtraining.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS AND DISCLOSURE
This report identifies Edward Payson Weston's vital statistics, walking technique, and how-to advice by examining public records spanning 70 years. Liberties must taken in presenting material, due to diverse writing styles in publications of that time. The press accounts of pedestrianism may be detailed one year, such as 1879 and sparse at other times. Reports the early 1900s can be helpful, and confusing as well. They standardized information in the convention of the time.
For example, is Weston 72 years old or in his 72nd year in 1910? In the transcontinental walk he took that year, a time of 76 days, 23 hours, 10 minutes is reported (probably Feb 1 - April 30). This feat might be represented today as 89 days, counting Sundays not walked. Still, three calendar months is impressive.
The sources include "The Pedestrian" by Weston himself, "King of the Peds" by P.S. Marshall, "Physical Culture" magazine article by H.C. Long, and "The Gentle Art of Walking" which consistes entirely of New York Times clippings. Photographs are drawn from miscelaneous public sources including the Bain Collection and Globetrotters Database (http://xoomer.virgilio.it/globetrotters/index.htm). Please advise regarding any omission of acknowledgements requiring correction.