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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 19.djvu/24

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tors in the long-distance match. The swift-footedness of Achilles is mentioned as often as his name occurs in the "Iliad"; and, according to the Scandinavian Saga, the champions of Jötunheim distanced even the henchman of Thor in a foot-race. Next to a smooth and perfectly level lawn, a firm beach is the best race-course, and, after a warm day, it is a luxury to the martyred feet of a city boy to tread the cool sand with his naked soles. Fast running is, on the whole, a more valuable accomplishment than long walking, for no one knows when he may owe his life, and more than his life, to the ability of outrunning a pursuer or a fugitive scoundrel; but walking and trotting matches against time will help to cure our children of that miserable snail-pace which has come to be the fashion of every public promenade. Reduced to a funeral-march, the "regulation walk" loses half its value—the hygienic value of the only kind of out-door exercise which the children of the upper ten or twenty can count upon. Who could wish a prettier sight than a bevy of schoolgirls, flitting by with fluttering flounces, like dancers keeping step to a merry tune? If mothers knew all the charms of animated beauty, they would not think it "more becoming" to turn their children into tortoises. Nor would they fear that they would "run themselves into a consumption," if they knew what real running means, and what the motive organs of a human being are capable of. Mexico has ceased to be a terra incognita to Yankee tourists, and most visitors to the upland cities will remember the army of hucksters and poulterers who every forenoon turn the main plaza into an agricultural fair. If you will take a morning walk on one of the sand-roads that diverge from the south gate of Puebla, you may see those hucksters coming in at a trot, girls in their teens many of them, and loaded with sacks and baskets; and upon inquiry you will learn that most of them come from the valley of Tehuacan, from a distance of ten or twelve English miles. The zagal, or post-boy of a Spanish mail-coach, carries nothing but a light whip, but he has not only to keep pace with a team of galloping horses for hour after hour, but has to run zigzag, adjusting a strap here, picking up a handkerchief there, and frequently entertains the travelers with a series of hand-springs, in order to earn an extra medio or two—not to mention the Grecian hemerodromes, who could distance a horse on the long run, and had often to cross rivers and lakes on their bee-line routes.

An excellent system of training was that of the old Turkish Jenidji-begs, or drill-masters of the Janizary cadets, who made young boys practice lance-throwing with a spear that exceeded the common javelin both in size and weight—"because, after they had become proficient in the use of such a heavy implement, the army-spear would be a mere feather in their hands." On the same principle the knee-muscles may be strengthened by a simple manœuvre without the use of any apparatus. Bend the left leg in a right angle, extending the right leg horizontally, and lower the body till your right heel nearly