Did you know there was a time in our history when the simple act of walking was America’s favorite spectator sport? A man has written a book about this:
Matthew Algeo’s ,” Pedestrianism: When Watching People Walk Was America’s Favorite Sport.”
It all started in 1860, with a challenge between two men resting on Lincoln winning the presidential election. The bet lost, the man had to walk for 6 days from the State House in Boston to the unfinished Capitol building. Competitive walking events ensued and continued for over two decades!
I happen to love walking. It was my favorite thing about living in New York City. I walked to work every day, from Sullivan Street, through Washington Square up to midtown. It was the best part of my day. It was contemplative, and relatively pedestrian free at that early hour – not so much coming home. But it afforded me a chance to unwind and feel my bodies’ motion in a way that both grounded and lifted me out of my ever racing head.
In his book, “A Philosophy of Walking”, author Frederic Gros, calls this contemplative walking. It’s what you do to clear your head. One can also do walking as a form of meditation. I’ve seen race walkers, and I must say it wears me out to see that unnatural gate. On this form of walking I must agree with Mr. Gros, who declares, “Walking is not a sport.”
As an artist who loves to walk, my favorite assertion from Gros is this.
” when walking, the body stops being in the landscape: it becomes the landscape.”
What more could a painter ever ask of an activity?