In the following guest post, writer Charles Kastner discusses his newest book entitled “The 1929 Bunion Derby, Johnny Salo and the Great Footrace across America”. Published by Syracuse University Press.
I recently published a book about an amazing trans-American footrace that took place in 1929, just months before the Great Depression. It’s titled, The 1929 Bunion Derby, Johnny Salo and the Great Footrace across America. It’s a story about courage and perseverance as the runners searched for the limits of human endurance as they raced across America eighty-five years ago.
On March 31, 1929, seventy-seven men began an epic 3,554-mile footrace across America that pushed their bodies to the breaking point. The race was nicknamed the “Bunion Derby” by the press. The men averaged forty-six, gut-busting miles a day during seventy-eight days of non-stop racing that took them from New York City to Los Angeles. This was the second and last of two trans-America footraces held in the late 1920’s.
Forty-three of the racers were veterans from the first ever trans-America race held in 1928. These veterans had learned hard-won lessons of pace, diet, and training, and they put them to good use the next year.
Among this group, two brilliant runners, Johnny Salo of Passaic, New Jersey and Pete Gavuzzi of England, emerged to battle for the $25,000 first prize along the mostly unpaved roads of 1929 America, with each man pushing the other to go faster as the lead switched back and forth between them. The two men averaged 8 minute and 53 second per mile pace over the trans-American course. No two runners, before or since have ever run that fast for so long.
After seventy-seven days of racing, just nine minutes separated these two superstars before the next day’s race finale, a 26.2-mile marathon race around an outdoor track in Los Angeles.
To pay the prize money, Race Director Charley Pyle cobbled together a traveling vaudeville company, complete with dancing debutantes, an all-girl band wearing pilots’ outfits, and blackface comedians, all housed under the massive show tent that Charley hoped would pack in audiences.
This is the story of, arguably, the greatest long distance footrace of all time held at the twilight of the Roaring Twenties.
To learn more about my book, The 1929 Bunion Derby, Johnny Salo and the Great Footrace across America, visit my website at http://www.charleskastner.com