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Bunion Derby: The 1928 Footrace Across America Hardcover – October 15, 2007
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More About the Author
For the past fourteen years, I've studied and written about these epic footraces. My first book about the 1928 race--Bunion Derby: The 1928 Footrace Across America--was published in 2007. My second about the 1929 race--The 1929 Bunion Derby: Johnny Salo and the Great Footrace across America--was published this spring. The runners who competed in these trans-America races pushed themselves to the point of physical and mental collapse. Those that persevered to run the 3,500-mile distance across America are a constant reminder to me of the untapped sources of human potential that rest within each of us.
In my latest book, forty-three veterans from the first bunion derby return for a second try at trans-America racing. On March 31, 1929, these veterans joined thirty-four rookies in New York City for the start of the second and last Bunion Derby. Racing over mountains, and across deserts and prairies, the "bunioneers" pushed their bodies to the breaking point. 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 in the waning months of the Roaring Twenties, just months before the Wall Street crash started the nation on its descent into the Great Depression.
The forty-three veterans dominated the race, after having learned hard-won lessons of pace, diet, and training during the first race. 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. Chasing them relentlessly, was Eddie "the Sheik" Gardner of Seattle, an African American who showed remarkable courage as he faced down the endemic racism he encountered on a daily basis.
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.
Visit me on the web at http://www.Charleskastner.com and on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/charlesbkastnerauthor.
Top Customer Reviews
But this is more than just a book about running. Mr. Kastner has done a laudable job of portraying a fascinating, little known facet of American history. It is a literate account of one of the greatest publicity stunts from an age of outrageous stunts - of marathon dancing, goldfish swallowing, and flagpole sitting. There is all the pathos of an America rife with pockets of extreme poverty and hardship, class and color discrimination, optimism and perseverance.
The book is meticulously researched and generously illustrated with archival photographs. Several appendices tantalize with glimpses of future ultra races (post 1928). I hope another book will soon be forthcoming.
Kastner's account follows African American, Ed Gardner, through the torturous ordeal. This is history that reads like a novel - absorbing and well-paced. Kastner brings into sharp focus the motivation, the perseverance, the will, the grit that made Gardner a hero of his day.
In his delightful book, "Bunion Derby," Charles Kastner has brought this remarkable race and its incredible participants back to life, helping to fulfill race referee Arthur Duffy's prediction that "...some day the public will come to realize that this cross country foot race is one of the greatest athletic achievements of the age."
Organized by sports promoter C.C. Pyle and his partner, football hero "Red" Grange, the race attracted 199 participants who competed for a First Prize of $25,000, a small fortune at the time. Each morning, the runners rolled off their metal cots, ran a race leg of 30-75 miles, scrounged for dinner, fell exhausted onto their cots, and woke up to do the whole thing over. Along the way, they had to overcome freezing temperatures, sprained ankles, bad food, assaults by hit-and-run drivers, and threats of violence against the African-American runners.
Could anyone today even imagine running from Los Angeles through the Mojave Desert, crossing the mountains of northern Arizona, and reaching the New Mexico border in twenty days? Throw in freezing rains, a 7400' elevation gain, and howling head winds and the feat becomes super-human.
Remarkably, 55 of the original 199 starters finished the race, even though many were simply amateur runners or not even runners at all. At least, not when they started.Read more ›
The story on the other hand belongs not only to the book, but to American History. The racers formed a cross-section of American society, with some fascinating foreigners thrown in for good measure. The trials and tribulations of all the runners amazed me and their sheer persistence could not help but become fodder for the story. But more than that the story is of ordinary people whose characters and personalities were forever changed by their phenomenal efforts. When the leaders of the race cross into New York State, there is a gesture by the leading racer which brought tears to my eyes. I leave it to you to buy the book and read the story, and admire these Bunioneers.
Why a scholarly work? Kastner had clearly done years of painstaking research to cobble together this story from hundreds and hundreds of sources. There are 36 pages of references accompanying the book citing the source for all information contained within the narrative. Kastner lists 75 newspapers in the references from which he combed through archives to find nuggets to enrich the story. Kastner has provided a first rate book and first rate service in preserving this important event in running and American history.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Byline: The Book Reviewer (www.thebookreviewer.ca)
Title of Book: The Bunion Derby
Author: Charles B. Kastner
Narrator: Andrew L. Read more
This is an amazing true story. It's a bit dry, as it just states what actually happened, but is no less epic because of that. Read morePublished 17 months ago by DK
As a runner who likes to buy running books its one like this which inspires me the most. Just guys toughing it out going far. Read morePublished on August 6, 2012 by Shane W. Early