Wyoming’s First Professional Sport Was Competitive Walking
When the railroad first arrived in Wyoming in the late 1860s, the most popular spectator sport in America was watching people walk.
As new cities like Cheyenne and Laramie sprung up along the western frontier, onlookers would gather to witness "professional pedestrians" and gamble on the outcome of their races.
Many towns even set up tracks for matches, which were accompanied by drinking, dancing, music and food.
On December 30, 1867, the Union Pacific Railroad had just arrived in Cheyenne and the bustling town was home to several thousand workers and merchants.
Among them was a "professional pedestrian" named A.C. Clarke, who set up a track downtown and vowed to walk for 50 miles without stopping to eat or sleep.
Hundreds lined up to place their bets. The following day, A.C. Clarke completed his mission to the delight of the crowd.
Unfortunately, the popularity of competitive walking would be short-lived. Several scandals marred the sport's reputation, including fixed races and performance enhancing drugs.
By the 1880s, bicycling and boxing had taken over as America's favorite pasttitmes. While it has faded in popularity over the years, competitive race walking remains a Olympic sport.