Click the different titles below to read historical spotlights about this amazing race!
Syracuse runners of a certain “vintage” remember well the downtown races that existed in the Goat’s early days, like the Super Blue and the American General. But did you know that a century before the first Goat on April 28, 1979, Syracuse hosted an indoor track competition that spanned the course of six days, from March 10 to 16, 1879?
Just as the Goat was the product of the running craze that began in the 1960s, this competition grew out of a similar craze that took off after the Civil War. It was called PEDESTRIANISM.
Just as the runners in the mid-twentieth century had no high-tech gear, the pedestrians of the mid-nineteenth century had none.
Just as elite runners like Benji Durdan and Joan Benoit visited Syracuse in 1980 (Durdan won the Goat and Benoit was first woman in the 3K), elite pedestrians traveled the country, making a living from the prize money at the events in which they participated.
And just as women athletes in the mid-twentieth century had to prove they could excel at the same distances men traversed, like Kate Switzer in the Boston Marathon, so did female pedestrians in the mid-nineteenth century.
The 1879 competition was held inside Shakespeare Hall, a multi-purpose entertainment venue that stood on the block the State Tower Building now occupies. An elevated saw-dust track was constructed for the competitors, and the distance was certified by the head engineer of the city. Then as now it was important to have accurate distances and for the same reason – the male competitor, 27 year-old Andrew Caffray, was hoping for a PR. He wanted to break 401 miles, a PR he had established the year before in a six-day competition in Cleveland, Ohio. Caffray was a native Syracusan, though once he turned pro, he no longer resided in the city. Professional pedestrians traveled the country challenging one another for money to make a living. For the March 1879 event, Caffray put up $500 and so did his competition, the winner would take home $1000 and part of the gate – spectators paid 25 cents each for admission. And who was his competition . . . ?
Two women! Both 18-year old Madame Mozart from France and Mlle Dumont from Montreal were professional pedestrians, and the rules of the game were that Caffray was not permitted to run, until the last hour of the six-day race he could only walk, while Mozart and Dumont could run whenever they pleased and only one of them would be permitted on the track at a time. Whoever toted up the most miles after six days – Caffray or the Mozart/Dumont team – would take home the purse.
Mozart was clearly the faster of the two females and her strategy was to use Dumont to spell her whenever she rested; Caffray was not afforded a surrogate for his rest periods. At the starting line Mozart wore a maroon colored “walking suit” with a knee-length skirt, flesh-colored tights and “thick shoes with heavy soles,” while her partner waited off the track adorned in “a becoming costume of light blue.” But, as in nature, their plumage paled by comparison to the male, who wore “a skin-tight flesh-colored shirt, a pair of purple small clothes (perhaps shorts?) and white stockings” with laced shoes similar to “brogans, so large and stout they appeared.”
Over the course of the six days, the lead went back and forth, all three of them caught colds, the Syracuse physician tending them treated blisters, and Caffray sustained an over-use injury to the arch of one foot – not surprising considering the size of the track, a little under 23 laps made a mile. The race was decided in its last few minutes when Caffray, who was struggling to keep up with Mozart, broke into a six-minute mile run and wound up winning by almost three miles. So he took home the purse, but the PR eluded him, and as for the women, the reporter for the Syracuse Courier conceded that neither could “hardly be classed as members of the weaker sex,” a back-handed compliment if you think about it – he considered them honorary men.
Here’s what you get from Wikipedia when you google on goats: “There are over 300 distinct breeds of goat. … Female goats are referred to as does or nannies, intact males are called bucks or billies and juvenile goats of both sexes are called kids. Castrated males are called wethers.” In honor of Women’s History Month, this story focuses on the nannies and begins in the year 2B.G., or as it is otherwise known 1977, when Diane Hatch of the Syracuse Post Standard did an article for the September 29th issue that featured Christine Hubbard.
Chris is the “Eve” of the Syracuse Track Club. She was there at its inception in May 1977 and served as its first secretary. She ran with the Original Goats, joining them on their early morning runs to one of the four Syracuse parks (Thornden, Lincoln, Schiller, or Burnett), then heading back to the Downtown Y before heading off to work. She was a woman in her thirties and the mother of two, who had added distance running to her busy schedule; she had just begun training for an autumn marathon.
Runner and newspaper columnist Sean Kirst’s May 1, 2012 article for the Post Standard covers how these park runs developed into today’s Mountain Goat 10-miler under the guidance of Walt Price, then fitness director at the Downtown Y. Obtained from his collection of Goat memorabilia is the picture below, featuring a running event in the year 1B.G. wherein an actual nanny goat appeared as described in the caption. One year later, the first Mountain Goat 10-mile Race was held.
The first female across the finish line in that race was Kathy Schrader with a time of 68:13; she was 115 overall out of a field of 622.
Walt tells an interesting story about the next year’s race. The sponsors budgeted money to pay a couple of elite runners to race, Benji Durden and Joan Benoit. He could not remember if they were both paid equally and recalled that Benoit was given $700 only because the sponsors were disappointed that she opted to run the 3K instead of the 10-miler. Benoit already had a formidable reputation as a distance runner and went on to win the first-ever women’s Olympic marathon in LA in 1984.
Before the 1960s, female collegiate athletes had no track events longer than 880 yards and female runners were barred from distance road races like the Boston Marathon. Title IX’s passage in 1972 began the transformation of women’s collegiate sports and countless amateur pioneers like Chris Hubbard forced the acceptance of female presence at road races. The start of the running phenomenon in the 1960s coincided with Second Wave Feminism, which aimed to increase opportunities for women beyond the right to vote that had been won by First Wave Feminists and whose 100th anniversary is this year.
During the heyday of the women’s movement in the 1970s, the Downtown Y became the site of gender warfare when women demanded admission to SYAC (Syracuse Y Athletic Club) that was reserved for men only. It had about 715 members, still exists today with around 300, and still does not admit women, although the Y’s website suggests that a family membership is possible. Why the women backed off the fight isunclear. It has been suggested that since the Y’s facilities were available to all, it was not worth their energy to dismantle the “boys’ club” only for the sake of principle. Or perhaps the nannies just thought that the billies, to paraphrase the novelist and First Wave feminist Virginia Woolf, needed “a room of their own.”
“God sure must love joggers . . . “ This opens an article in the August 30, 1978 Post Standard, admonishing runners to face traffic and run single file. Unfortunately, one gets the impression from the tone of the piece that its author is more inconvenienced by having to share the road than concerned about the welfare of runners, and it’s not just because he uses the “J” word. Interestingly, historical evidence indicates that this sort of disdain for the physically active has ever been.
For instance, the December 10, 1860 edition of the Syracuse Journal, records Burt Miller’s success at having completed 100 consecutive hours of walking, and concludes that although he had shown “great strength of will and powers of endurance . . . there is very little in the performance that is commendable.” In the Syracuse Courier on June 23, 1879, the entire fad of “pedestrian competitions” was condemned because, “The practical question at the end of all this, ever recurs: To what use is all this expenditure of effort to be applied. It lines the pockets of the successful contestants, but shortens their lives and unfits them for more useful employments. This is the most that can be said. It is not much, and is not likely to be of lasting benefit to mankind.” A final example from 100 years B.G.: in the Syracuse Journal between April and October of 1878 appeared a series of articles on “The Wheelbarrow Idiot,” often also referred to as “the wheelbarrow lunatic.” This fellow wagered $1000 that he could walk pushing a wheelbarrow with a load of between 35 and 50 pounds from Albany, NY to San Francisco faster than a horse, figuring that horses typically averaged 19 miles a day of work.
So how was someone committed to feats of endurance with their feet to get respect . . . ? The answer was if you did it to support your family OR to look for work OR after a day of “honest” labor.
The wheelbarrow man turned out to be an unemployed upholsterer who had undertaken his expedition “for the needs of his family.” “One thousand dollars for between one hundred and fifty and sixty days’ walking is pretty fair wages,” concluded the news coverage after he successfully completed his trip. Respect also was accorded the 14-year old Sarah Hewitt who entered a 160-mile walking contest in February 1893 “as her parents are poor and she wanted to assist in providing for the family’s welfare.” (She came in sixth, a spot that paid 5% of the $800 purse). There was also a 70-year old African American who walked from Louisiana to Puget Sound in 1878 “for the purpose of getting employment,” and was judged to be deserving of “good wages for the remainder of his days” because of his feat. A final example, there was James Brown, a 40-year old “dumper of engines at East Syracuse,” who in August 1879, after working “all of Wednesday night, dumping upwards of forty engines,” began his five trips back and forth between East Syracuse and “the Central round house” in Syracuse, a total of 50 miles that he covered in 11 hours and 55 minutes, at 6:00am the next day right after he was done with breakfast. His feat of endurance was judged as having “considerable merit” because he had done “a hard night’s work” before it.
Nearer the year of the Goat’s foundation in 1979 or 1AG, other legitimate reasons for physical activity arose. Specifically, in June 1970 the Post Standard promoted the Salt City Marathon, sponsored by the North Area YMCA, as an opportunity to “Jog Away Spare Tire.” However, let’s face it: if you’re entering a marathon, your spare tire has been “jogged” away long before that. Another way to earn some respect from the physically inactive was to enter a race to represent the hometown, as evidenced by a Syracuse newspaper article from 1984 that praised the six “local women” who had entered the fifth annual Marine Corps Marathon, and noted that, “More than 40 local runners are entered in the race.” So had there been a positive evolution of attitudes toward the physically active over the course of 100 years? Perhaps only if they trained running single file facing traffic.