Accessible Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter February 12, 2019

Six-day footraces in the post-pedestrianism era

Greg Salvesen


In a six-day footrace, competitors accumulate as much distance as possible on foot over 144 consecutive hours by circumambulating a loop course. Now an obscure event on the fringe of ultra running and contested by amateurs, six-day races and the associated sport of pedestrianism used to be a lucrative professional athletic endeavor. Indeed, pedestrianism was the most popular spectator sport in America c. 1874–c. 1881. We analyzed data from 277 six-day races spanning 37 years in the post-pedestrianism era (1981–2018). Men outnumber women 3:1 in six-day race participation. The men’s (women’s) six-day world record is 644.2 (549.1) miles and the top 4% achieve 500 (450) miles. Adopting the forecasting model of Godsey (2012), we predict a 53% (21%) probability that the men’s (women’s) world record will be broken within the next decade.


GS thanks Matthew Algeo for planting the seed that grew into an obsession. GS is grateful to the Rocky Mountain Runners, particularly Cassy Scallon, and the ultra running community for countless stimulating discussions on pedestrianism and modern six-day racing. Jordan (Jo’j) Mirocha provided patient guidance in the art of MCMC analysis. Usage permissions were kindly granted by Jürgen Schoch of the DUV Statistics Team for modern era data and Paul S. Marshall, author of King of the Peds, for pedestrianism era data. Two anonymous reviewers and a JQAS associate editor provided constructive feedback, which improved this paper. This project was unfunded, with the work being done during the author’s free time.


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Published Online: 2019-02-12
Published in Print: 2019-06-26

©2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Boston