America’s First Ultramarathoner – Daniel Boone


America’s first Ultramarathoner?

You can’t be a marathon runner long before you read something about the legend of Pheidippideas.  According to Greek history, the first marathon commemorated the run of the soldier Pheidippides from a battlefield near the town of Marathon, Greece, to Athens in 490 B.C. According to legend, Pheidippides ran the approximately 25 miles to announce the defeat of the Persians to some anxious Athenians and later died.

True or not it is universally accepted that Pheidippideas was the first marathon runner.

But who was the first ultramarathoner?

Could it have been Daniel Boone?

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I have just recently watched a History channel series on “the Men Who Built America – Frontiersmen which highlighted the lives of men like Lewis and Clark, Tecumseh, Davy Crocket, Andrew Jackson and perhaps the first ultramarathoner…Daniel Boone.

The show is very informative, entertaining and highlights a period when our country went through great growing pains. I can’t capture all of Boones highlight here but venture to say he played a significant role in exploring and settling what is modern day Kentucky and lands west of the Appalachian/Blue Ridge Mountains.  One event from his life stood out to me as a ultramarathoner.  January 1778, Boone led a party of 30 men to the salt springs on the Licking River.  While Daniel was hunting meat for the expedition, he was surprised and captured by warriors led by Chef Blackfish.

Eventually Boone and his men were taken to Blackfish’s town of Chillicothe, where they were made to run the Gauntlet.  As was their custom, the Shawnees adopted some of the prisoners into the tribe to replace fallen warriors; the remainder were taken to Hamilton in Detroit.  Boone was adopted into a Shawnee family at Chillicothe, perhaps into the family of Chief Blackfish himself, and given the name Sheltowee (Big Turtle).

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On June 16, 1778, when he learned Blackfish was about to return to Boonesborough with a large force, Boone eluded his captors and raced home, covering the 150 miles in five days.  The History channel portrays this run for freedom and Boonesborough to be on foot. If true, and I have no reason to doubt the research that went into this project.  Boone would have had to travel 30+ miles a day to reach the settlement.

What I find fascinating is that he did this without proper running shoes, without proper food/water, dressed in mostly heavy animal skins as clothing, while trying to evade capture and without chip timing or race photos.

Can’t get enough of Daniel Boone the Ultramarathon, I found this race which as it sound may run along parts of the trails Boone himself used during his 150 run.  Check out the Yamacraw 50k. 

My coonskin hat off to Daniel Boone, if not the first, certainly one of the first ultramarathoner in US history.