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Green man's guide to sporting success

Friday 02 July 2010

Fabio Capello should have prescribed England players a strict regime of purging, sweating and eating broiled meat according to a rare book that has been brought back into print by St Andrews graduate and resident Donald Macgregor.

The book, “Pedestrianism” by Walter Thom, chronicles the achievements of runners and walkers throughout the centuries up to 1800 before focussing on the training of Captain Barclay, the celebrated Regency pedestrian.

It reveals Barclay’s own advice on how to sweat, exercise and feed for sporting competition. Captain Barclay was born in August 1777 at Ury House just outside Stonehaven in Scotland. He accomplished his most notable feat of endurance walking in 1809, when he walked a mile an hour, every hour, for 42 days and nights.

Walter Thom first published his book in 1813 - the same year in which Napoleon embarked on the return voyage from Elba and tried to re-conquer Europe. Now it has been re-published to coincide with the World Cup battle to conquer the globe.

Since its initial publication “Pedestrianism” has been quoted in nearly every training manual published through the nineteenth century and even into the twentieth. However, until now, only five copies were known to survive in the UK.

The book describes Captain Barclay's astonishing exploits, provides a table of his pedestrian activities, a journal of his most famous walk and a chapter on his genealogy and family history. Barclay, himself, provides a chapter on his training methods.

He says:

“The skilful trainer attends to the state of the bowels, the lungs, and the skin; and he uses such means as will reduce the fat, and at the same time invigorate the muscular fibres. The patient is purged by drastic medicines, he is sweated by walking under a load of clothes, and by lying between feather beds. His limbs are roughly rubbed. His diet is beef or mutton; his drink, strong ale.”

Donald Macgregor said:

“Pedestrianism” is much more than an account of Captain Barclay’s life and exploits. It reveals that our ancestors knew a lot about the ancient Olympics and that they could run just about as fast as modern runners can – some of the fastest could get very close to a four minute mile. There is amazing detail of feats of forgotten runners and walkers back to the Restoration. It’s astonishing that no one in Britain has thought to reproduce it before now.”

Notes for News Editors

“Pedestrianism” by Walter Thom is reprinted by Pinetree Press, 15 Kinkell Terrace, St Andrews, and is available from that address or from J&G Innes, St Andrews and East Neuk Books, Anstruther at £12.99.

Subject to sales, a proportion of proceeds donation will go to the University of St Andrews Library.

Donald Macgregor is one of Scotland’s five Olympic marathoners to date – Tom Jack, Duncan Wright,  Donald Robertson and Jim Alder being the others. He competed at Munich and  in two Commonwealth Games and has a best time of 2:14:15.4 (Christchurch 1974). In 1979 and 1980 he won World Masters’ over-40 titles at 10,000m (Hannover - 30:04,2) and marathon (Glasgow – 2:19:23).

He was also for 40 years a teacher of modern languages at schools and latterly universities. Over the past ten years he has also been a tour guide, athletics researcher and translator, has published a book of poetry, helps coach senior athletes, runs nearly every day, and since 2007 has been a councillor for the East Neuk and Landward area of Fife.

Donald Macgregor’s autobiography, “Running My Life”, will be published in the autumn.

Donald Macgregor is available for interview on 01334 474282


Issued by the University of St Andrews

Contact: Emma Shea, Communications Manager, on 01334 462 109 or email Emma.Shea@st-andrews.ac.uk