18th- and early 19th-century Britain
During the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, pedestrianism, like running or horse racing (equestrianism) was a popular spectator sport in the British Isles. Pedestrianism became a fixture at fairs – much like horse racing – developing from wagers on footraces, rambling, and 17th-century wagering. Sources from the late 17th and early 18th century in England describe aristocrats pitting their carriage , constrained to walk by the speed of their masters' carriages, against one another.
The first notable exponent of this long distance walking is generally considered to be Foster Powell (1734–93) who in 1773 walked 400 miles (640 km) from London to York and back, and in 1788 walked 100 miles (160 km) in 21 hours 35 minutes. By the end of the 18th century, and especially with the growth of the popular press, feats of foot travel over great distances (similar to a modern Ultramarathon) gained attention, and were labelled "pedestrianism".