On this day … 19 February 1842

The Preston Chronicle carried a report of a road race on Garstang Road that caused offence because of the state of undress of the competitors. One in particular scandalised by turning up at the start with just ‘a handkerchief fastened round his loins’.

Foot Racing Nuisance

On Wednesday last, two men, named George Eastham and William Margison, were held to bail at the Town-hall, for creating a public disturbance on the previous Monday afternoon. It appeared that at that time a large mob of people had assembled on the Broughton road for the purpose of deciding a wager. From there they were driven to the avenue of the Moor; and being disturbed at that place, they eventually ran the race upon another part of the Moor, between the House of Correction and the House of Recovery.

There were as many as 500 people assembled, generally speaking of the lowest order. The cause of complaint, as we understood, is not so much the running the race as the indecent exposure of the person upon the public highway, which invariably takes place at these foot races.

The competitors have seldom more clothing on them than a small pair of drawers. When one of the men charged on Wednesday was first seen on the Broughton road, prepared to run, he had nothing whatever upon him but a handkerchief fastened round his loins. He had contrived, however, it afterwards turned out, to obtain a pair of drawers before he actually ran the race. Eastham had been held to bail before for a similar offence.

It is high time that these disgusting exhibitions upon the public roads should be put down; and we hear that the police have received strict order to take all persons into custody offending in a like manner.

The censorious tone of the item might have been provoked by the fact that the spectators were ‘generally speaking of the lowest order’ and that gambling was involved. And yet, to judge by Google images, this was how most runners dressed when competing in Victorian athletics, as the example from Hackney Wick (above) , where the chap in the lead is certainly scantily clad, demonstrates.

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