San Francisco Stories


September 15, 1851, Daily Alta California, San Francisco

THE FOOT RACE. -- The great Foot Race for $1,000, being a match against time, ten miles to be done within the hour, came off over the Pioneer Course yesterday afternoon. By 10 o'clock yesterday morning every thing in the shape of a horse was engaged by individuals eager to see the race, and the unfortunates who went to the livery stables after that hour, with the idea of obtaining an animal, were most sadly disappointed. Horses, that during the whole week had been attached to drays, milk wagons, sand carts and the like, were all pressed into the service, saddled up, and driven out to see the first great foot race ever run in California. The road was lined with horses, buggies, and foot passengers, and ere the hour of starting the Grand Stand at the race track was crowded, and the Course very well filled.

It had been understood that five persons had entered for the race and among them Col. Johnson's Indian, who is a celebrated runner. The Indian, however, did not appear. He was down here about a week since, tried the track, and has been training in the vicinity of Stockton. At half past three the runners were called up, and there appeared John Gildersleeve, B.F. Gorin, and -- Kearney.

Gildersleeve was dressed with a tight shirt, blue silk knee breeches, bare legs below the knee, and thin-soled shoes. The other two, who appeared to be amateurs, had not paid particular attention to their style of dress, and appeared to have entered more for sport than anything else. There was but very little betting. The wind was blowing a perfect gale from the Northwest, and it was very generally conceded that, under the circumstances, the 10 miles could not be done within the hour.

At the tap of the drum the runners started -- Gildersleeve on the outside, Kearney in the middle, and Gorin on the inside. Kearney started off at full tilt, and kept ahead till about half round the course, where Gildersleeve passed him, and keeping an apparent regular gait, came in at the end of the first mile far ahead of his competitors.

Kearney and Gorin did the first mile in six minutes, and on reaching the stand, gave out and retired from the track, apparently very much disgusted with foot-races inn general and this one in particular --- leaving the track alone to Gildersleeve. About the only betting, which was even, was on sixty-five minutes, the wind being so strong as to require at least this allowance. In addition to this, a number of persons very foolishly continued galloping their horses round the course, throwing the dust in Gildersleeve's face during the whole distance. The following is Gildersleeve's time, as kept by each mile:

  MIN SEC
MIN SEC
First mile 6 39 Sixth Mile 6 30
Second mile 6 16 Seventh Mile 6 30
Third mile 6 20 Eighth Mile 6 38
Fourth mile 6 22 Ninth Mile 6 40
Fifth mile 6 20 Tenth Mile 6 22
TOTALS 63 37

By the hour watch, the time was made in sixty-three minutes, thirty seconds. Gildersleeve, as will be seen by the time, kept up a very regular pace, and was very fresh, when he came in. It was stated by Mr. T.K. Battelle, judge of the race, that the proprietors would give Mr. Gildersleeve the purse of one thousand dollars which was to have been won within the hour. This announcement was received by the spectators with great enthusiasm.

Taking into consideration the difficulties with which Mr. Gildersleeve had to contend, the wind blowing a perfect gale, and the dust blowing in his eyes, this is unquestionable the greatest feat he has ever performed, and places him at the head of foot racers.

There were no rows, drunkenness or gambling on the course, and every thing went off with the greatest quiet and order. It will be perceived by the mile table that Mr. Gildersleeve lost three minutes and thirty-seven seconds, and by the hour hand three, thirty-one. The wind much more than counterbalanced this difference.

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