Thanksgiving. I was born on the holiday in 1957. Annual childhood pilgrimage from Atwood, Il to Grandma Katie’s one bedroom house in Indiahoma, Oklahoma. One block off of Quanah Parker Hwy. More Native Americans there than anywhere in the U.S. Sad chapter in our history.
But this is Andrew Hartley Payne’s story. A young Cherokee from Claremore, OK. And his amazing run in 1928.
C.C. “Cash & Carry” Pyle was a promoter and showman in the mold of another of my heroes, Phineas Taylor Barnum. His ” 1928 Great Transcontinental Footrace” attracted the best ultra runners in the world. Niels Nielsen, Nestor Erickson, Ginsto Umek, Theodocio Rivera, Walter Grafsky, John Gobers, Kurt Peters, and the World’s 100 Mile Champion Arthur Newton. Celebrities, record holders and champions in their home countries. And the best runners of the time from the United States. Seth Gonzalez of Denver ran to Los Angeles for the start. Bill Bush had just walked across the U.S. in 65 days. The American favorite though a young Hopi Indian named Nicholas Quomawahu. And more than a handful of wanderers and seekers and desperados filling the field capped at 250.
The start gun cracked at the Ascott Speedway in L.A. on March 4, 1928. Following the historic Route 66 for the most part, in stages. Five hundred seventy three hours, 4 minutes, and 34 seconds of running put Andy Payne first at Madison Square Garden. The exploits of this race, the grandiose vision of C.C. Pyle, the sacrifice and suffering and showmanship making this one of the most unique chapters in U.S. running history. Andy Payne winning it makes it one of the most inspirational.