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Futility Closet

Apr 18, 2016

In 1928, 199 runners set out on a perilous 3,400-mile footrace across America, from Los Angeles to Chicago and on to New York. The winner would receive $25,000 -- if anyone finished at all. In this week's episode of the Futility Closet podcast we'll follow the Trans-American Footrace, better known as the Bunion Derby, billed as the greatest footrace the world had ever known.

We'll also learn some creepy things about spiders and puzzle over why one man needs three cars.

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Sources for our feature on the Trans-American Footrace:

Charles B. Kastner, The Bunion Derby, 2007.

"Mr. Pyle's Professional Bunion Derby," Pittsburgh Press, April 19, 1928.

"Payne Wins First Prize in Pyle's Bunion Derby," Associated Press, May 27, 1928.

"C.C. Pyle Hopes Bunion Derby to Net Him Profit," Ottawa Citizen, March 29, 1929.

"Sport: Bunion Derby," Time, June 24, 1929, 58.

"Bunion Derby' Hero Elected," Associated Press, Nov. 8, 1934.

"Bunion Derby Director Dies," Associated Press, Feb. 4, 1939.

"Mapping the Way," Runner's World, July 1992, 94.

"Harry Abrams Is Dead at 87; Ran Across the Country Twice," New York Times, Nov. 28, 1994.

Jack Rockett, "The Great 'Bunion Derby,'" Runner's World, Nov. 7, 2006.

Laura Ruttum, "Endurance Racing: First Leg, the Bunion Derby," New York Public Library, April 2, 2010.

Some footage from the race -- winner Andy Payne wears number 43:

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Listener mail:

Kiona Smith-Strickland, "This Is How to Find the Spiders That Are Staring At You in the Dark," Gizmodo, Aug. 2, 2015.

This week's lateral thinking puzzle was contributed by listener Patrick Riehl.

You can listen using the player above, download this episode directly, or subscribe on iTunes or via the RSS feed at

Many thanks to Doug Ross for the music in this episode.

If you have any questions or comments you can reach us at Thanks for listening!