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O’Leary, Daniel (29 June 1846?–29 May 1933), pedestrian, was born in the village of Carrigroe, County Cork, Ireland, the son of a farmer. His parents’ names are not known. Raised amid widespread famine and desolation, O’Leary worked on his father’s farm until age twenty, when he immigrated to the United States. Unable to find employment in New York City, he moved to Chicago, Illinois, and secured a job in a lumberyard. During the winter of 1866 O’Leary moved to Bolivar County, Mississippi, where he picked cotton. In 1868 he returned to Chicago and became a door-to-door book salesman. After achieving modest success as a book canvasser, the Chicago fire of 1871 wiped out many of his clients and left O’Leary with a $3,000 debt in idle inventory and unpaid bills. After the fire he started peddling his books in the Chicago suburbs. In addition to walking several miles from house to house, O’Leary began and ended each day by walking ten to fifteen miles from the city to the suburbs. He maintained this regimen for nearly two years, building the physical stamina that would enable him to become a long-distance race walker....

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Weston, Edward Payson (15 March 1839–13 May 1929), long-distance walker, was born in Providence, Rhode Island, the son of Silas Weston, a merchant, and Maria Gaines, a writer of popular romances. As a child, Weston moved with his family to Boston, where he attended public school. At age fourteen he was employed as a candy, magazine, and newspaper vendor on trains from Boston to Providence; a year later he worked the New York–Fall River Steamship Line. His first recognition as an athlete came in 1861 when he walked from Boston to Washington, D.C., in ten days to attend ...