Great American Footrace

The idea of a footrace from Los Angeles to New York is preposterous enough. The decision to stay in such a race beyond the point where it became evident that the promoter was unable or unwilling to provide decent food and a place to sleep after each day's struggle would seem to be insane.

That's part of what makes the documentary entitled "The Great American Foot Race" such a compelling story. Nobody should have been out there running through the sage brush and over the mountains on a journey that would take nearly three months, but one hundred ninety nine men took up the challenge. Lots of them didn't even make it out of California, but Andy Payne, a Cherokee teenager, did, and then some.

Remarkably, filmmakers Dan Bigby and Lily Shangreaux found some of Payne's relatives and contemporaries to help them tell the story. Though C.C. Pyle, the promoter who organized the race, was a self-aggrandizing fraud, there is no bitterness in the telling of this tale. Seventy-four years after the race, those who remember it are inspired and delighted by what they recall: Andy Payne's determination, and the success he made of himself following his triumph; the pride other Native Americans, from school children to elders, felt in Payne as they followed his progress.

It's terrific that Dan Bigby and Lily Shangreaux have taken on the task of bringing this remarkable story to a current audience that, if there's any justice, will be large and appreciative.

This program aired on November 9, 2002. The audio for this program is not available.


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