Race Across America takes place in the late 1920’s. In those years a decent living wage for a family was $2500 per year so when Charles Pyle announced that he was organizing a trans-American stage race with a first-place prize of $25 000 it’s no surprise that people signed up. Winning this first place prize would mean that your family was set for life. In the 1920’s running competitions were mostly for amateurs, and a race with prize money brought back the professionalization of the sport which had been present at the end of the 1800’s, but since disappeared. In addition to bringing back professional racing, there was no segregation and both black and white participants could race against each other even though some of the states the race ran through didn’t allow this. The book tells the story of the Bunion Derby (as the race was called), some of the participants (including one black American named Eddie Gardner), and what society was like for black Americans who were no longer slaves but not yet equal members of society.
Charles Kastner has written three books about the 1928 and 1929 “bunion derbies” including Race Across America, and all have been highly acclaimed. His interest in long distance running began when he joined the Inglemoor High School cross country team in 1970 and he has run over one hundred races ranging from five kilometers to the marathon and one ultra, during a career that spanned almost fifty years. He is a trained historian and veteran researcher, and holds a BA in History from Whitman College and a MA in History from Washington State University. He also has a MBA from Pacific Lutheran University, and a MS in Environmental Biology from Hood College. Charles Kastner has spoken about the Bunion Derby in magazines, podcasts, and public speaking engagements with the intention of giving the participants of this race the credit they deserve for their accomplishments, and has spent the last twenty years learning and writing about these great trans-America footraces.
Race Across America can be found on the Syracuse University Press website https://press.syr.edu/supressbooks/2477/race-across-america/
You can find out what Charles is up to by visiting his website https://charleskastner.com
Big thank you to the publisher, Syracuse University Press, for providing a review copy of the book, and to the author Charles Kastner for taking the time to speak with us.
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