Dubbed “the celebrated pedestrian”, Robert Barclay Allardice was famous for his amazing walking feats and is considered the father of the 19th century sport of pedestrianism, a precursor to racewalking.
A member of Scotland’s ancient and wealthy Barclay clan, ‘Captain Barclay’ – as he was most commonly known – was one of the strongest men of his age, with several other family members also noted for their unusual power and stamina.
Captain Barclay’s first celebrated exploit came in 1801, when he walked 110 miles in under 20 hours in a muddy park. He followed it up with jaunts of 64 miles in 10 hours (1802), 72 miles between breakfast and dinner (1805) and 78 miles in 14 hours on hilly roads (1807).
To prepare for such treks, his training included a twice-weekly 51-mile walk from his home in Urie, Kincardineshire to Turriff, Aberdeenshire. He would cover a further 20 miles exercising his pack of hounds and then walk 51 miles back home.
However, perhaps his most famous feat came between 1 June and 12 July 1809, when he walked one mile each hour for 1,000 hours. The stunt at Newmarket earned him a 1,000-guinea wager and a glowing report in The Times.
As well as walking, Captain Barclay was a well-known boxing trainer. In 1807 and 1808 his pupil, Tom Cribb, was bareknuckle champion of the world.
He died in 1854, aged 74, after being kicked by a horse.
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