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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

4.5 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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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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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 328 pages
  • Publisher: Rodale Books (July 10, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594863199
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594863196
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.2 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,219,423 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
About 25 years ago one of my sons ran in a local race named in honor of Andy Payne. I sort of recognized the name as some kind of sports figure in our state but didn't know the details. They handed out information sheets explaining that Payne had won a cross country race in the '20s and I was impressed but didn't really have any idea! Now that I have more time to read my first choices are biographical or geographical stories from our area. This book popped up and I remembered what I'd heard. This book was fascinating. I appreciate Geoff Williams doing so much research and telling the stories of the individuals who ran this unbelievable race. For men to accomplish something so brutal is a testament to the human spirit. C.C. Pyle was a sad little man always with another hare-brained idea for making money. He did occasionally make money but had no sense about taking care of it. His story is funny and some of his schemes are head-shaking but he provided others with some excitement (and sometimes some money) during the bleak Depression. I'm even more in awe of our Oklahoma boy for not only winning the race but for at least trying to keep his word about buying the farm. Living only 20 miles from Route 66 I'd like to see some signs along the way alerting tourists to just one more event that the road is famous for. I like the book and enjoyed the diary-type way the author led us through the race.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was not what I expected. The story was more about C.C. Pyle and not as much for the runners. It did talk about the runners, just not in great detail. It was more about C. C. Pyle's life as a con man. The book actually went back & forth with the runners & Pyles life, without changing chapters. still a decent book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This is not one "for the ages" but one for a good summer beach read. It was entertaining with an overall interesting story and characters. It did not keep me glued to my seat but I did keep coming back and overall I would recommend it for what it is, a good Summer beach book.
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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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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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