Popular Science Monthly/Volume 77/July 1910/Middle and Distance Running

1579391Popular Science Monthly Volume 77 July 1910 — Middle and Distance Running1910Charles Edward Hammett




IS middle and distance running as practised in our schools and colleges injurious or is it not? The verdict of spectators at an intercollegiate or interscholastic track meet, as the contestants cross the finish line frequently exhibiting every evidence of exhaustion, would probably be in the affirmative. It is difficult for them to resist the belief that a contest which so drains a man of his strength must, of necessity, use up vitality that can never be completely restored, must permanently weaken the heart, and perhaps injuriously affect him in other respects. This investigation was undertaken in the hope of ascertaining whether there is adequate foundation for such a belief.

In an experience extending over fifteen years, the writer has attended many track meets, has known personally hundreds of runners, has time and again questioned them in regard to their personal experience. Curiously enough, he has never found a single man who would admit that he had been injured by racing. The incompatibility between the positive assertions of these men and the popular impression as to the effects of distance running was so pronounced, and the subject is such an important one in its relation to schoolboys and college men, that an investigation became imperative. The investigation does not deal with the marathon running of the present day, but solely with the distances usually run in school and college—one half to two miles and cross-country seven miles.

Athletes from all parts of the country have been consulted, principally men who quit running years ago, and who have had ample time to note in their own persons the after effects of the training they underwent; men whose youthful enthusiasm has been sobered by years of business or professional life and whose judgment is therefore to be respected. Some of them quit running thirty years ago; others twenty-six, twenty-four, eighteen, twelve, etc. A few are still running, only eight in all. Seven have just quit, nine stopped a year ago and the great majority from two to thirty years ago, averaging eight and a half years. Nearly one half of the whole number ran for five or more years, training five to six days a week in two groups, one group averaging twenty-six weeks a year, the other ten weeks. Many trained six days a week, thirty to forty weeks a year. These men have been allowed to speak for themselves, first as to facts, i. e., the manner in which they have been affected by their running; second as to their opinions, i. e., whether or not they consider distance racing and cross-country running safe and valuable forms of exercise. The facts to which they testify must be considered as final; the opinions they express, even if not accepted as conclusive, must be of greater value than opinions based merely upon theory, for they are the incarnation of living experience, formed through days, weeks and months of hard grueling work, through knowledge of the manner in which their team mates bore the drudgery of training and the strain of contest, and shaped finally by their own physical condition during the years which have elapsed since they ran.

Injuries to the Heart.—In view of the general belief that running is apt to injure the heart, particular attention was given to this phase of the question. Contrary to expectation, permanent injury to the heart was found to be very rare, only three men testifying to this effect and in these three cases the injury manifests itself only in unusual exertion. Twelve others developed functional heart affections, irregularity, palpitation, etc. Further correspondence with these men shows that all of these functional irregularities have been entirely cured. Ten of these fifteen men had what is known as "athlete's heart," three of the cases persisting to this day, as stated above.

Generally speaking, the term "athlete's heart" is very vaguely comprehended. In medicine, it is defined as compensatory cardiac hypertrophy'—that is to say, it defines a heart which although it has become enlarged, still performs its functions perfectly. Such a heart is normal in an athlete or in any man who performs vigorous physical exercise, the fibers growing firmer and larger as the demands upon the organ increase, just as a man's muscles grow firmer and larger under a month's outing in the woods. In almost every instance a heart of this type will shrink to approximately its former size without injury to its tissues, after the exercise has been discontinued. When, however, a man pushes his exercise too far, his heart may develop valvular insufficiency, palpitation or other functional irregularity, and I am inclined to believe that this is what the average physician means when he tells a man that he has "athlete's heart." This was so in most of the cases mentioned above, nevertheless, all but three of the men have since been cured. "Athlete's heart" is usually a temporary condition and permanent injury from overwork is rarely found. In an experience with school boys in all branches of athletics extending over a period of fifteen years, I have met with but one case of true athlete's heart, and this boy's physician told him that if he would abstain from violent exercise for six months he would be entirely cured. This heart affection was brought about by two years of hard training for the mile, beginning at an early age. This case, together with the free expression of opinion from athletes to whom this inquiry was addressed, strengthens my conviction that unless a boy is unusually well developed, he should not take up distance running in earnest until eighteen years of age, and leads me to believe, furthermore, that the practise of running school boys daily from the beginning of the school year in order that they may compete in the spring, is a bad one, as is also that of running them in so many races during the season.

But there was found to be a credit as well as a debit side in the effects of running upon the heart. One man writes: "My training and running caused previous heart and lung trouble to disappear"; another, "transformed a nervous heart into a normal one"; another, "transformed a heart beating 100 usually, with occasional palpitation, into a normal one and caused the palpitation to disappear"; another, "when I began running, I was so weak that I was supposed to go down stairs backward—at the last physical examination I was found to have one of the best hearts in the school. Ran four years from 440 yards up to seven miles."

Other Injuries.—In response to the question "Has racing ever injuriously affected you, and how?" eight men testify to temporary injury due to over training or to racing when in poor condition, such as weak stomach, run-down condition, nervous breakdown, etc., the bad effects lasting from several weeks to as long as twelve months in one instance. One of these men ran the half mile, mile and two miles in one afternoon several times each year of his course of four years. This, of course, was simply inviting disaster, and it is difficult to understand how any college trainer could have permitted it. This brings us directly to a statement by one of the most famous athletes this country has ever produced, namely that

The great trouble in my opinion is the lack of knowledge on the part of trainers. The tendency is to overdo. This is particularly true of the school boy who imagines that unless he runs himself clean out every day of practise, he is not getting in the proper condition for competition. This is where he makes a mistake, and where, in my mind, he is going to feel the effects in later years.

Proper training means work suited to the strength and development of the individual, and if a man is so trained, is allowed to compete only when fit, and is fit to run when he begins training, such injuries would not occur.

Benefits.—In answer to the question, "Has it benefited you in any way?" ninety per cent, answer "Yes," five per cent, do not know whether it has or not, and five per cent, reply, "It has not." The benefits said to have resulted are in general, strengthened heart and lungs, developed a rugged constitution, cured several weak hearts, "gave perfect health and endurance very beneficial in recent years," "cured frequent headaches," "effected a complete emancipation from doctors and medicines," etc., and the relatively minor one of increased muscular development. The usual benefits resulting from training for any branch of athletics are also emphasized, namely, regular hours and regular habits of living, how and what to eat, the incompatability of dissipation with physical stamina, the moral lesson that hard work, and that alone, leads to success. These benefits, it will be noticed, are of the kind that contribute to increased constitutional strength, strength of heart, lungs and vital organs, and are permanent in character. The almost unanimous testimony to this increase in vital strength is worthy of special note.

Cross-country Running.—Cross-country running is generally believed to be one of the best exercises that young men can take. The testimony of Mr. Joseph Wood, the headmaster of Harrow, is of particular value in this connection. He writes:

We keep no actual record of our runners, but I have been a headmaster now for over forty years, and my experience certainly goes to prove that cross-country running does no harm but much good; second, that in long-distance racing much care is necessary. No boy should be allowed to compete unless certified as sound and fit by competent medical advisers. At Harrow we make this a rule.

As Mr. Wood implies, there is a vast difference between cross-country running, in which a man swings along at a rate well within his powers, and cross-country racing, in which he must drive himself at high pressure from three to ten miles. There seems to be a pretty well-developed opinion among the runners that cross-country racing is injurious. An intercollegiate champion, the captain of a varsity team writes:

I have had considerable opportunity to observe the effect of track and cross-country racing on athletes in this section [the west[. I have yet to see the track man at ——— who was injured by races over the half-mile, mile and two-mile courses, but cases have occasionally come to my notice of men whose vitality was drained severely by cross-country races over five-mile courses.

Another captain and coach writes to the same effect. Information accidentally received relating to one of the eastern universities, reveals a belief among the students that the men on the cross-country squad drain themselves of vitality, and there is frequent expression of opinion to that effect from the athletes who responded to this inquiry.

Interesting Facts.—The cross-country men began running later in life than the track men, the average being 181/2 years, as compared with 171/2 for two milers, 17 for milers and 16 for half milers. In the latter, the percentage of heart affections was greater than with the one and two mile men. In view of the immaturity of the boys who ran in the 880 class, this is not surprising.

Two thirds of the athletes participated freely in general athletics when not in training for track—in football, baseball, basketball, tennis, hockey, gymnastics, etc., and were practically engaged in vigorous exercise for a period of five and a half years. Their statistics do not show appreciable variation from those of the one third who engaged in running only.

Naturally and yet unexpectedly the men who trained on an average of about ten weeks a year, notwithstanding they numbered less than two fifths of the whole number, had nearly twice the percentage of injuries. In attempting to fit themselves for the strain of a distance race in such a short time, they overworked, with consequent bad effects. Curiously enough, the men who trained twenty-six weeks a year and continued running from seven to twelve or fifteen years, had no injuries at all. It might be supposed that this vigorous exercise continued for such a long time would drain their vitality. Exactly the contrary has been the case. With one exception, all claim to be more vigorous than the average man of their age, and the exception declares himself fully as vigorous.

One half of the athletes began running as schoolboys, and 78.5 per cent, made good in college, as compared with 75 per cent, of those who did not take up the sport until they entered college. Twice as many of the boys who ran only a year or two in school made good, as of those who ran three or four years. This seems to indicate that boys who begin at school, if they do not begin too young, and if they are brought along gradually, learning stride and pace and developing stamina, have a slightly better chance than even the more mature man who takes up the sport after he enters college. There is nothing surprising in this, as it requires several years to bring a distance runner to his best. C. H. Kilpatrick, winner of the American and Canadian championships, '94, '95 and '96, and until recently holder of the world's record for the half mile, began running while at school, as did also George Orton, intercollegiate mile champion for several years. Melvin Sheppard before becoming an Olympic champion was famous throughout the middle Atlantic states as a school-boy runner. It is a common saying, however, that school-boy stars usually "fall down" in college and unquestionably many runners of promise are spoiled before they get there, but, generally speaking, the school-boy star fails to develop into a college star because he has stepped from the narrow limits of school competition into the much greater range of college athletics. I am inclined to believe that unless he has been overrun, he equals in college his school records and usually surpasses them, and while the data to support it are not at hand, I should expect this to be particularly true of distance running, at which a man should get better and better the longer he keeps at it. The evidence shows, furthermore, that boys who were over sixteen years of age when they began running did twice as well after they entered college as boys who began under sixteen. Evidently the boy who begins too young is throwing away his chances in college.

Breaking Training.—One hundred and twelve athletes quit running abruptly, and all but one of them are in vigorous health to-day, apparently having experienced no ill effects, either from breaking training suddenly or from that overdevelopment of heart and lungs which is supposed to result from athletics. This seems to indicate, first, that unnecessary emphasis has been laid upon breaking training gradually and, second, that abnormal development of the heart and lungs leading to serious affections of these organs is not to be feared.

The entire physical organism is developed by training to a condition of unusual efficiency in order to meet the demands made upon it. It is generally believed that when these demands cease suddenly—through abruptly breaking training—tissue degeneration follows, inducing physical ailments of greater or less severity. There is, undoubtedly, an alteration in the tissues when the organism is no longer called upon for vigorous activity, but the theory that this change is a pathological one is not sustained by the facts, in so far at least as distance runners are concerned, save when it is aggravated by bad habits, dissipation or close confinement. It has not been sustained in my experience with school-boy athletes, for in fifteen years I can recall but two cases of indisposition after the season, both temporary, both in football men, big and full blooded, of the type that require an active life. I think it is not sustained by the experience of the vast majority of athletes graduated from our colleges year by year, who from choice or necessity engage in business activities which deny leisure for indulgence in sport, for, if so, it should by this time show negatively in the national health statistics, whereas, on the contrary, the spread of athletics in the past generation is believed to have raised the standard of national physical efficiency. It seems to me likely that the ordinary activities of life are sufficient to bridge over the transition period, especially as men who have been accustomed to a great deal of exercise, and who feel the need of it, will, as a rule, manage to get more or less of it into or in connection with their work. I am of the opinion that, save in rare instances, the development produced by college athletics is not abnormal—as is that of professional strong men, weight lifters, acrobats, etc., in whom vitality is sacrificed to muscular development—but that it is normal, and constitutional as distinguished from muscular development, for none of the college sports, except perhaps the hammer throw, develop great muscular strength. The character of the athlete's training supports this belief. He trains hard for a season or two (twelve to thirty weeks), but during the intermittent periods and the summer his exercise is much less severe, and is engaged in solely for pleasure. He works during the training season and plays in between, the mid-seasons in this way providing just the type of letting down that is supposed to be necesssary, so that at the close of his college career, instead of cumulative abnormal development, as in the case of the professional strong man, he has built up an evenly-balanced physical machine.

Expert Opinions.—The athletes are nearly unanimous in endorsing cross-country running (as distinguished from cross-country racing), as a safe and valuable form of exercise, but the same unanimity is not shown when we come to the consideration of distance racing—880 yards to two miles. Ten per cent, of the men oppose racing of any kind, on the ground that it involves too much strain. Eighty per cent, of them approve it, nearly one third of these, however, qualifying their approval by saying, "if not overdone, if under proper training, if sound at the start, if sufficiently mature, etc." These various qualifications, insisted upon by so many of the athletes, indicate a pretty general feeling by men who know the game, a feeling arising from their own personal experience or through observation of others, that distance racing is not free from risk except under competent supervision. Their letters indicate that without such supervision immature boys, and men physically and constitutionally weak, will take up the game; that they, as well as those who are fit to run, will train improperly and will be likely to overdo it. They insist upon a preliminary examination by a competent physician; they are opposed to the practise of running more than one hard race on the same day, a practise common among school boys, who, as a rule, have no competent trainer to advise them; they are opposed to boys taking up the game until they are seventeen or eighteen years of age, although recognizing the difficulty of setting any fixed age limit, since the strength and development of an individual must determine his fitness. Many believe that one mile should be the limit for schoolboy contests. There is a very pronounced feeling among them that school-boys generally overwork. These opinions, held by men who know, can not be disregarded in an effort to discover and set forth the facts. They point to the dangers which lie in the path of the inexperienced athlete, and which bring adverse criticism upon the sport. And yet, notwithstanding these dangers, all avoidable, it will be apparent to any one who reads their letters that they approve the sport if properly supervised, considering it in that case not only safe but of great benefit. Almost all of the men, even those who are opposed to racing, even those who sustained injury while at it, claim to have been benefited by their athletic experience. This can mean but one thing, namely, as one of them expresses it, "the increased health and vigor resulting from training more than compensated for any injury due to racing." The exceedingly small number of permanent injuries revealed by this investigation, and the vigorous health enjoyed to-day by the athletes almost without exception, sustain this view especially since it must be borne in mind that a large proportion of the men quit running years ago, before the highly specialized trainer of to-day was developed, and consequently must have trained under more or less imperfect methods. It should also be remembered that unlike football and crew men, runners are not select specimens of plrysical manhood, picked because of their strength and vigor. On the contrary, track men are fragile in comparison. Strip a group of football and crew candidates and place them side by side with a group of track men and no one could fail to be impressed by the contrast in strength and development.

Vitality.—Whether distance running drains vitality or not can not be demonstrated in terms of percentage, as one may speak of the number of bodily injuries or of functional heart derangements. A conclusion must be reached deductively, if at all, from the statistics given by the men; the character of the injuries they have received; the nature of the benefits which accrued from their running; the probable effect of these injuries and benefits on their vital organs; the state of their health at the present time, etc. Vitality must be determined by the condition of the blood, and of the organs which maintain life, the heart, lungs, stomach, kidneys, etc. If running has resulted in strengthening the heart and lungs of these athletes, in improving their digestion, in stimulating to greater efficiency the functioning of their vital organs, in endowing them with greater physical vigor, it has evidently given them greater vitality, greater resistance to disease; if, on the other hand, it has injured their hearts, weakened their lungs, injuriously affected their vital organs; if a fair percentage of them have become broken down athletes, it has impaired their physical vigor and drained vitality. Every one admits the value of running per se. It is generally recognized as the exercise par excellence which develops vital strength, strength of heart and lungs, the kind of strength that carries a man to a green old age. No one of our athletic teams regularly presents to the eye such evidence of perfect physical condition as does the track team. The practical value from a physiological point of view of all the school and college sports is in direct ratio to the amount of running involved. Racing in itself may be injurious, ten per cent, of the men believe it is, although their letters show that half of these are opposed to it, not because of definite and positive injury known to result from it, but from the vague general feeling referred to on the first page of this inquiry, namely, the belief that it is too great a strain. And this investigation shows that certain injuries do result from it, though much less serious than is generally believed. On the other hand, a large majority of the men deny that racing is necessarily injurious, affirming that injury when incurred is caused by poor condition, and that if a man is fit when he toes the mark, he is not likely to injure himself, no matter how hard he runs. But it is impossible to consider racing alone, since running is inseparably connected with it. Boys can not race without training, and will not train without racing. There seems to be no doubt in the minds of the athletes themselves as to the effects of their running. Over ninety per cent, claim to have derived permanent benefits, in many instances of inestimable value, and only four of the entire number testify to permanent injury. Some of the letters have a direct bearing on the subject of vitality, others relate to it indirectly; one man writes:

Cornell University is distinguished above all other institutions for the development of runners at the distances you mention. I am in touch with all the 'varsity distance men graduated in the last ten years, and there is not a case of physical debility in the whole lot. Most of them are much more alive than the average man.

A famous distance runner whose feats astonished men a few years ago, writes:

I have been running for over twenty-three years now, and feel in perfect physical condition. Have won races from seventy-five yards up, and have run over one hundred miles quite often. My heart has been examined by specialists in London, Paris, Boston and other places, and all say that it is in perfect working shape.

Another writes:

My father, who is sixty-two years of age, and an old distance runner, can now run a quarter mile consistently under sixty seconds. He has not been ill since he was a young man, and is as hale and hearty as a man of thirty.

A quarter mile in sixty seconds is beyond the ability of ninety-nine out of a hundred men whom you and I meet in the streets. The average boy of eighteen years can not do it, but the trained runner can with ease. A form of exercise which develops and maintains in a man sixty-two years of age vigor enough to perform a feat beyond the strength of the average man of half his years and which brings forth testimony such as I have just quoted, has strong claims to favorable consideration.

The Jinrickisha Man.—As bearing upon the general subject of distance running, I have endeavored to ascertain how the jinrickisha men of Japan and the dak or post runners of India have been affected by their arduous occupations. Although the work performed by the jinrickisha man differs widely in character from that demanded by the college athlete training for distance racing, there is a parallel if not similar demand upon the heart and lungs, and the effect should be similar in character, differing only in degree. The jinrickisha man performs infinitely harder work than the college athlete. Twenty, forty and even sixty miles a day is no unusual performance, and while he does not run as fast as the college man, he adds to the burden of his running—which ordinarily is hardly more than a fast jog—the strain of drawing a heavy weight, so that in all probability the cumulative effect upon the vital organs is not only equal to but much beyond that of the college man. In addition to this, he is subjected to all kinds of temperature—drenched in perspiration one hour, shivering with cold the next, hauling his 'rickshaw in all kinds of weather, inadequately fed, smokes and dissipates. His activities are irregular—he may have work several days in succession, then lie idle for as many more, to be suddenly called upon for a renewed strenuous task—and in general his mode of life is exactly opposite to that of the college athlete, who is required to keep regular hours, fed the most nourishing foods, forbidden tobacco and spirits, is bathed, massaged and runs for fixed periods of time, gradually increasing Ms performances under the careful eye of an experienced coach. It is extremely difficult to obtain definite information concerning the jinrickisha man. No traveler whose works I have read has been sufficiently interested to publish ininformation of the kind that would be valuable in connection with our inquiry. At the most, but casual reference is made to him as one of the picturesque features of the flowery kingdom. Mr. E. G. Babbitt, American vice consul-general in charge at Yokohama, has been good enough to answer my inquiry, and his letter throws more light upon the subject than I have been able to obtain from any other source. He writes:

The imperial government publishes annually an elaborate report (statistics) concerning movements of the population, but the number of deaths, etc., are given by "age" and not by "occupation," and it would be a very difficult matter to find the death rate among any particular class. Each prefecture has its own laws and regulations concerning the jinrickisha men and in one of the prefectures the age of the applicants for the jinrickisha's man's license has been limited to fifty-five; in Tokio, this age limit came into force in 1907, at which time it was reported that there were over twelve hundred jinrickisha men over fifty-five years of age. Most of these men were healthy and strong. During the year 1907-1908, this consulate-general had two old janitors, both of whom were jinrickisha men over twenty-five years, they said. The superintendent of police of this district whom I interviewed on this subject attributes a comparatively high death rate among them to their irregular diet and excessive use of liquors, to which vice they appear to be more addicted than any other class of laborers.

Dak and Kaliar Runners.—In attempting to investigate the dak or post runner of India, I came into possession, through the courtesy of Mr. G. Lockwood Kipling, of information of especial interest concerning the Kahar caste, also known as Jhinwars in the Punjaub. Mr. Kipling writes that this caste "has for many centuries been village servants, appointed to be carriers, runners, watermen, fishermen, basket makers, water fowl catchers, etc.," and are trained runners from generation to generation. Mr. T. C. Lewis, late director of public instruction, United Province, India, in enclosing to Mr. Kipling the story which follows, writes:

This goes to show that the Kahars who are in a manner born to the work, and are trained to it from their youth up, can, if they do it regularly (the oftener the better, as the old man said), cover extraordinary distances and without dropping out of the running at an early age as folks seem to fancy.

Mr. John Harvey, formerly assistant inspector of schools, Lahore Circle, who has had abundant opportunity for observation, writes that these people are not short lived and that they are known to have performed "most extraordinary feats of endurance, such as bearing palanquins and doolies, in carrying bangi loads and in long distance running when laying a palki dak, i. e., arranging for a succession of bearers for an urgent palanquin journey." He says:

I know that Kahars live to be old men, for it is from their own lips that I have heard of feats of long distance running, as sarbarais and proved them to be true. I could give you several instances of incredible endurance.

The following story from Mr. Harvey illustrates the wonderful endurance of the Kahar:

Scene—Amritsar, N. India. Circ. 1875. Time, 5 p.m.
Dramatis Personæ
J. Harvey Asst. Inspt. Schools, Lahore Circle.
Maghi Ram. Doolie chaudhri, Amritsar.
Gangu Son of above.
J. H. Ah, chaudhri ji! It is necessary that I should have a doolie to start for Sialkot at 8 this evening."

M. R. "Very good, nourisher of the poor, here is the Order book: please write the order and pay the money Rs 30, at the rate of 41/2 annas per bearer for six bearers, 1 sarbarai (forerunner) and 1 misalchi (torchbearer) for each of eleven stages, with Rs 5 for the doolie and the balance for oil."

J. H. "There, count the money—is it all right?"

M. R. "Quite correct, noble presence—Take the Rs 20, and be off with you. The doolie will be here at 7:30, Sahib. Salaam."

J. H. "Stay, chaudhri—That Gangu is your son, I think; now will he go the whole distance to Sialkot (64 miles) before morning, laying my doolie dak and paying the bearers?"

M. R. "O yes, noble presence, why not? That is nothing for a boy of his age (20 years). But kahars (doolie-bearer caste) are no longer in condition since the railways came in, though their time was always surer."

J. H. "Nonsense. But it is interesting to know that Gangu will do his 64 miles in 9 hours, if he really does do so. How shall I prove it?"

M. R. "Why, nourisher of the poor, Gangu will pay his respects to you, in duty bound, when you arrive in Sialkot, for he must return to me at once with your assurance that all went well on the journey."

J. H. "Well, I know this is said to be the usual procedure, but is it not a trying piece of work for a young man, especially if he has to do it often?"

M. R. "Great king, the oftener the better; for it is much more trying if undergone only occasionally, though we kahars are in a manner born to the work. Unburdened, we could go on forever, but burdened—well, fifty miles is nothing out of the way for a man in practise. Some of your own bearers will not change for three, four, five or more stages on the way to Sialkot. It will all depend on what men are obtainable on short notice. [This was subsequently verified by J. H. who found one man of his bearers toiling under the doolie into Sialkot who started under it from Amritsar and who proved that be had the previous day reached Amritsar from Sialkot with a banghy (bamboo shoulder pole with burdens at either end) load of mangoes.] My grandfather was a famous long-distance kahar, and my father, an old man now, still carries his banghy all day."

J. H. "Is it so? But now, listen; how far could your Gangu go without rest on one stretch?"

M. R. "Noble presence, there is no telling how far an unburdened kahar could not go, but Gangu should be able to do one hundred miles without food or rest."

J. H. (cynically) "Ah, indeed! And you, I think, in your day could have done two hundred."

M. R. "Great king, more than that. Listen, incarnation of justice. Just at the mutiny time, Capt. ———— of Mian Mir sent for doolie chaudhri Tika Ram, and after informing him that he had important despatches for Meerut, asked him if he could arrange for a doolie dak there. I need not tell you the distance, Sahib, three hundred miles as the crow flies—and have him carried with safety. Tika Ram was aghast at the very notion, but when Capt. ———— said he had thought of every other means, and had come to the conclusion that a continuous doolie journey through Patiala and Karnal would be speediest, that not only would the chaudri be well paid, but that the reward would be great if the dispatches could be delivered on the third day, and that if Tika Ram, son of Lalu Ram, could not manage it, no one else could, the chaudhri after considerable thought agreed to undertake it, as it was worth risking. So asking for the bare fare in advance, and stipulating for ten hours start for the sarbarai, he despatched his own son on the business of laying a cross-country doolie dak to Meerut. At the appointed hour, the doolie was at Captain ————'s door and bore him off to arrive without let or hindrance at Meerut on the third day, to be greeted on his arrival by the sarbarai, and to give him assurance that all was well."

J. H. "Enough, enough, chaudhri, that will do. Go."

M. R. "Your noble presence does not believe me. Here is the proof, always carried with me. There, great king, cast your eye over that. What is its purport, mine of intelligence?"

J. H. (Reading No. 1.) This to certify that chaudhri Tika Ram, son of Lalu Ram arranged a doolie dak for me from Mean-Mir to Meerut and that he fulfilled his engagement by having me safely brought with important despatches to my destination.

Signed ——————————, Capt. Hianmir.
Dated ——————————

No. 2. The bearer of this chaudhri Tika Ram, son of Lalu Ram, has been rewarded with the sum of Rs 1000 for etc., etc.

Signed ——————————, General Commander Hianmir.
Dated ——————————.

No. 3. This is to certify that Maghi Ram, son of Tika Ram, doolie Chaudhri of Mianmir, laid my doolie dak successfully from Mian-Mir to Meerut, etc.

Signed ——————————, Capt. Hianmir.
Dated ——————————.

Looking at the chaudhri—" Humph! I am to believe then that you are the same sarbarai that laid the dak from Mianmir to Meerut which arrived on the third day."

M. R. "Incarnation of justice, your slave is the grandson of Lalu Ram, the son of Tika Ram, and the father of Gangu—Salaam."


When one recalls the distances covered in the six-day go-as-you-please contests in vogue in this country some years ago, there is nothing incredible in this. If men of this day can average over a hundred miles a day for six days, what is there incredible in one of a race trained from childhood covering three hundred miles in three days? The interesting fact, in view of the scope of this article, is that the Kahars, trained from childhood to be distance runners, lived to be old men; that they were not only able to stand the strain of running great distances under a heavy load, but thrived under it.

I remember years ago of hearing that the post runners of India died at about the age of forty as a result of their exertions, but I have been unable to find any foundation for such a statement. Positive information in regard to the mortality of Indian post runners is unavailable, as they are relatively very few in number and of inferior caste, so that they are not mentioned as a caste in health statistics. Mr. John Cornwall, late postmaster general in the United Provinces, India, writes, that the Indian mail runners cover fifteen to eighteen miles a day, that there is never any difficulty in getting men to undertake the duties and that he never heard of them succumbing at the early age of forty. The rumor may, he says, have arisen from "the arrangement that Sowcars (bankers or money dealers) and Bunyas (merchants and traders) made in pre-mutiny days, to obtain early information as to the markets, rates of exchange, etc. They employed private persons, trained runners, to outstrip the regular mail carriers and convey information up country from trade centers. It was no uncommon thing, fifty years ago to see these messengers "arriving with messages sealed up in quills, and with their leg sinews swollen and strained from their exertions," but there is no definite and authoritative statement that their lives were shortened by their work.

Conclusions.—It seems to be an open question whether cross-country racing is safe for any but men of exceptional strength with the probabilities in the negative. It is evident that distance racing of any kind is attended with a certain amount of risk, which, however, can be reduced to a minimum by proper training. There is nothing in the testimony given by the athletes to show that distance running depletes vitality. As a matter of fact the presumptive weight of evidence is to the contrary. The facts revealed concerning the jinrickisha men and the Kahar runner emphasize this conclusion. If, notwithstanding his irregular diet, excessive use of liquors, exposure to the elements, etc., the jinrickisha man can live to a reasonable age; if, as shown by Mr. Harvey's testimony, Kahar runners live to be old men notwithstanding their extraordinary feats of endurance, we may safely conclude that the infinitely milder work of the college man, usually done under the best conditions, is not likely to injure him, and the evidence at hand appears to establish this beyond reasonable doubt. But the number of injuries shown, even though nearly all of them were temporary ones, indicate the need for better supervision. None worthy of the name is given the school-boy athlete, except in comparatively few preparatory schools and city high schools. Competent trainers are scarce, but medical supervision can readily be had. If the boys were required to pass a preliminary examination by a competent physician and were examined thereafter at intervals of three or four weeks to ascertain how they are standing up under the training, liability to injury would be practically eliminated.

Twenty-two of the sixty or seventy colleges and large preparatory schools to which we wrote furnished lists of their athletes. These lists contained the names of two hundred and sixty men, two thirds of whom responded to our letters. The replies are so similar in tone and so emphatic as regards essentials that I believe the results shown will be confirmed by further investigation involving any number of athletes.