Foster Powell

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Foster Powell contemporary etching

Foster Powell (1734–15 April 1793) was the first notable exponent of long distance walking known as pedestrianism[1] and has been called "the first English athlete of whom we have any record".[2]


Powell was baptized in Horsforth in 1734, and moved to London in 1762 where he worked as a lawyer's clerk.[1][3] In 1764 he began his pedestrian career by wagering that he could walk 50 miles in 7 hours, which he accomplished on the Bath Road.[4] He became a national celebrity, but made very little money from walking, which he treated as a hobby, and died in relative poverty at the age of 59 on 15 April 1793.[2][3] He was buried at St Faith's Church in St Paul's Cathedral Churchyard, after a walking funeral procession.[3][4]


In 1773 he walked 400 miles from London to York and back, and in 1788 walked 100 miles in 21 hours 35 minutes. He also ran 2 miles in 10 minutes.[3]


  1. ^ a b Charles G. Harper (1922) The Great North Road: London to York 2nd edn Cecil Palmer, London
  2. ^ a b Arthur Mee (1941) The King's England: Yorkshire West Riding (Hodder & Stoughton, London) pp190–1
  3. ^ a b c d Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, accessed 3 July 2016
  4. ^ a b Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 46: Powell, Foster

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