Martin Smith Column: Forgotten Sheffield heroes remembered as Owls legend Steve Adams says farewell

Richard Manks and The Pedestrians - didn't we see them at The Limit in 1978?

Actually no.

It may sound like the name of a lesser punk band but it’s actually the title of a book by Sheffield writer Paul Marshall on one of history’s most fascinating but almost entirely forgotten sporting eras.

If the weekend antics of Zlatan and Mings (1950s sci-fi villains?) are controversial how about a full century’s worth of violence, celebrity culture, sabotage, gambling, corruption, alcohol and drug abuse and vast crowds paying huge sums of money to watch their heroes on both sides of the Atlantic.

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Pedestrianism - walking or running as far as you can in races that lasted up to and beyond six days – may not sound too exciting these days but back in the 18th and 19th centuries it was a huge sporting attraction second only to prize fighting.

Names like Dicky Misfortune, The Burster, The Flying Mouse, The Snob and Young Sampson were known on both sides of the Atlantic.

Adopted Sheffielder Manks was known as the ‘Warwickshire Antelope’ (they don’t make nicknames like they used to) and is most famous for running and walking 1000 miles in 1000 hours in 1851 at Barrack Tavern Grounds in Sheffield.

The mighty George Littlewood from Rawmarsh, Rotherham ran 623 miles 1,320 yards in six days at New York’s Madison Square Garden, between November 27 and December 2, 1888.

That record still stands.

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Competitors would train on chicken, calves foot jelly, oysters and stout, take Champagne breaks during competitions to ‘revive their stamina’ and bathe their aching feet in neat alcohol for relief.

But one disgruntled fan at that Madison Square garden meeting - he had probably backed the other runner - dropped a lit match into the bowl in which Littlewood was bathing his feet. Of course that didn’t stop him and he hobbled home on badly-burned legs to win. Paul’s book is free to view as a PDF document at, and readers are encouraged to donate to charity.

n Terrible news about Steve Adams, the Owls coach who died over the weekend at the age of 57. A lifelong Wednesdayite and a lovely bloke who I was lucky enough to interview and a man who happily sorted out an all-weather pitch for The Star to play a one-off game at Middlewood a few years ago. Top man and a great shame to lose him so young.