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C.C. Pyle's Amazing Foot Race: The True Story of the 1928 Coast-to-Coast Run Across America Hardcover – July 10, 2007


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books (July 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594863199
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594863196
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #897,061 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Pyle, a sports agent and promoter, came up with the idea of a footrace (mockingly known as the Bunion Derby) from Los Angeles to New York that promised $48,500 in cash, including $25,000 to the first-place winner. For a $125 entry fee, male participants got the chance for a nice payday while subjecting themselves to harsh weather, primitive housing and Pyle's ego and shady business practices. They also had to run 3,500 miles over 84 days (the equivalent of 40 miles a day) long before comfortable running shoes and sophisticated sports nutrition. Williams, a contributor to Entrepreneur magazine, has evocatively recreated a long-forgotten sports event, mixing colorful anecdotes from the race with vivid portraits of the runners. There's Brother John, a bearded zealot who raced in a sackcloth, and 20-year-old Andy Payne, a part-Cherokee Oklahoman who competed to pay off his family's farm and to win the attention of the girl he loved. What could have been one long injury report or a sappy piece of nostalgic nuttiness is a breezy, entertaining read that properly balances the runners' integrity with the comedy of errors that was Pyle's grand experiment and his life. Photos. (July)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

On March 4, 1928, 199 men set off from Los Angeles on foot. Their destination: New York City. It was the Bunion Derby, perhaps the most grueling contest in the golden age of endurance competitions, an era when dancing, flagpole sitting, eating, and even coffee drinking turned into tests of will. The race was the brainchild of huckster C. C. Pyle, who shares the focus of this fascinating account with some of the racers (especially young Andy Payne, who entered the derby in the name of true love). In a broader sense, though, author Williams tells the story of pre-Depression America, when the world seemed an exciting place, and when the horizon was bright. The race was an exhausting, punishing event (amazingly, more than 50 racers finished it), and Williams recounts the story with gusto, giving us a real sense of the physical and mental toll the competition took on its participants. Pyle comes off as a likable rogue, a classic Roaring Twenties, get-rich-quick kind of guy. The book is like a time capsule—and an extremely entertaining one at that. Pitt, David

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Customer Reviews

4.4 out of 5 stars
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This book popped up and I remembered what I'd heard.
Mac Pro
Filled with interesting anecdotes and thoroughly researched, Mr. Williams has created an easy-to-read piece of non-fiction that reads like a fictional tale.
S. Santillan
Race organizer/director C.C. Pyle would be vilified and probably arrested!
Craig Connell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Twin Mama on August 9, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This was a wonderful journey---as a reader, if not for all the runners who entered this coast-to-coast run.

In the midst of so many people, and so much information, I appreciate the pacing of the story---how Geoff Williams introduced the many subplots and the many characters involved in those subplots, and then returned back to them throughout the book. Williams has a flair for building suspense, with bits of foreshadowing, so that you feel as if you are traveling along with this wildly diverse band of people.

The book has some truly playful, humorous moments---barely a page goes by without a creative turn of phrase or a well-placed jab at someone or something. At times, I found myself laughing out loud at various images that Williams brought forth. I don't think it's spoiling the plot to reveal that one image that stands out is of the runner who was so famished that he ate a candy bar, wrapper in all, on one especially grueling day.

It was also intriguing to see the backdrop of what was happening in the United States at the time---all of the endurance contests, as the Great Depression loomed on the horizon.

This isn't a book solely for sports fans, though they will certainly appreciate the grit required of the runners and the close involvement of no less a legendary character than Red Grange, "The Galloping Ghost."

More than that, it's a book for anyone interested in learning about this slice of American history, as well as some of those who helped embody this time in our nation's development.

It's best personified in the book's central character: Grange's agent and business partner, C.C. Pyle.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By itsmemick1946 on March 11, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had never heard of this race before...but the book was so well researched...that I felt I was there...just terrific...even for non runners.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Scott Weston Wolford on March 10, 2010
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The author did a superb job in recreating the race across the United States. I commend him on all of the long hours of research that went into producing this book. As a long distance athlete, I can well relate to the athlete's triumphs and defeats. I do wish their was more personal accounts from the runners themselves, but I am certain that the author would have included more if they were available.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By L. Hampton on September 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Not much of a review, but my son-in-law knows the author of this book so i thought I would buy it and read it.
I am glad I did. It is a very interesting book in that it gives you a look at our country in the early 20's, a look at some dedicated and not so dedicated runners, and what could be one of the biggest shysters to ever promote a sporting event.

I wanted to keep reading to see how each of the runners faired , how they would be treated, what new concept C.C Pyle could concoct and to see how the citizens would treat these athletes.
You really can't go wrong reading this book.

The only con I would have is that some of the stories about the runners were too short but not enough to hurt the reading of this book.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Craig Connell on May 13, 2009
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If this didn't really happen, I would never believe this story. People running marathon (or two) races - 25 to 50 miles - every day for months in horrible weather and terrain? It could only happen in the wild days of The Roaring Twenties in which people were obsessed with setting records.

Today, the conditions under which this incredible event took place, would never happen....for humane reasons, alone. Race organizer/director C.C. Pyle would be vilified and probably arrested!

Anyway, if you want to read a fascinating account of the capabilities of the human body and will to endure, this book will keep you riveted to your seat. I still can't believe this race actually happened!
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Barat on December 27, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Everything old really IS new again. The "reality series" of today have nothing on the bizarre endurance contests of the 1920s and early 1930s, which frequently provoked massive media coverage. This book describes one of the unjustly forgotten peaks of this esoteric genre: the International Transcontinental Foot Race of 1928, popularly known as the "Bunion Derby." 199 runners started from California with the goal of reaching Yankee Stadium (later, Madison Square Garden) in New York. Only 50 or so ultimately got there. The event, somewhat haphazardly organized by sports promoter C.C. Pyle, best known as Red Grange's manager, attracted plenty of flakes but also featured some seriously committed long-distance runners. Williams' narrative lays the whole story out for you in gory, blistered, benumbed detail. I could have asked for slightly better writing in a technical sense, but the tale is quite fascinating and will keep your attention till the end.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Paul A. Mastin TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 19, 2012
Format: Hardcover
There are ultrarunners, and then there are ULTRArunners. At the entry level are runners like me, who run the occasional 50 miler with hopes of maybe completing a 100 mile race one day. Then there are the veterans, who regularly race in 50 and 100 mile races. Then there are the runners portrayed in Geoff Williams's account of a 1928 cross country foot race. In an age of dance marathons, flagpole sitting, and wing walking, showman and sports promoter C.C. "Cash and Carry" Pyle came up with the idea to stage a race from Los Angeles to New York. He traveled the country and the world recruiting runners and promoting "C.C. Pyle's first Annual International Transcontinental Foot Race, From Los Angeles to New York." As you might guess, the unwieldy name didn't stick, but the nickname did: The Bunion Derby.

Pyle, a pioneer in sports agency and marketing, managed to gather a field of experienced runners, as well as eager but inadequately prepared hopefuls attracted by the promised $25,000 prize. Some of the runners had run races or exhibition runs of hundreds of miles, some were experienced marathoners and Olympic athletes. Others were not athletes at all, just ambitious men with big dreams.

On March 4, 1928, 199 runners started out in the rain and mud, thousands of miles ahead of them. Williams gathers newspaper accounts, personal memoirs, and historical documents to chronicle the race from its inception to the finish. We learn the back stories of the runners and witness the drama of the race. Runners dropped out along the way, of course, from injury, exhaustion, frustration, mental breakdown, or some combination of all of these.

Williams's account is full of great anecdotes.
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