At 3.37pm on 12th July 1809 at Newmarket, Captain Barclay Allardice completed the final mile in an event that had started almost forty-two days earlier on 1st June, since when he had walked a single mile in every one of the thousand hours that passed in between.
In doing so he made a fortune, because in addition to winning a wager, that he could walk a thousand miles in a thousand consecutive hours for a thousand guineas, he had also accepted side bets amounting to several thousands of pounds.
This feat of endurance and sleep deprivation captured the imagination of the people, who in the final days descended upon Newmarket in ”dangerous numbers” to witness the final days of Barclay’s triumph.
Forty-nine years later on February 18th February 1858, on Newmarket Heath, Charles Westhall, acknowledged by many as the first real race walker, walked twenty-one miles in under three hours.
Sir John Astley was the driving force and founder of the Astley Institute, Newmarket which opened in 1893 and which today as The New Astley Club, still provides services and facilities for racing staff and the wider community. In the 1870’s “The Mate” as Sir John, a racehorse owner and trainer was known, promoted all kinds of sporting events, the most famous being a number of six day walk challenges where distances in excess of 500 miles were recorded.
So, whilst Newmarket is synonymous with horse racing, it also has a special place in the annals of Pedestrianism and the development of the sport of Race Walking, a discipline that has yielded more Olympic medals for Great Britain than any other track and field event.
A major part of the Bi-Centenary celebration is an attempt by Richard Dunwoody to re-enact Barclay’s amazing feat between 29th May and 10th July. Richard is a former national hunt jockey.
On the 11th and 12th of July the public have the opportunity to mark the Bi-Centenary by taking part in one of Barclay Walking Week-end events
If you need motivation, bear in mind that participants in the Barclay Walking Week-end will be making history, linking events of the nineteenth century to those of the twenty-first by doing the simplest and most straightforward exercise of all – Walking!