When one walks, one is brought into touch first of all with the essential relations between one's physical powers and the character of the country; one is compelled to see it as its natives do. Then every man one meets is an individual. One is no longer regarded by the whole population as an unapproachable and uninteresting animal to be cheated and robbed.
If a walker is indeed an individualist there is nowhere he can't go at dawn and not many places he can't go at noon. But just as it demeans life to live alongside a great river you can no longer swim in or drink from, to be crowded into safer areas and hours takes much of the gloss off walking -- one sport you shouldn't have to reserve a time and a court for.
I can sometimes sit for two hours in a room with almost no thought. Just complete stillness. Sometimes when I go for walks, there's also complete stillness; there's no mental labeling of sense perceptions. There's simply a sense of awe or wonder or openness, and that's beautiful.
The true charm of pedestrianism does not lie in the walking, or in the scenery, but in the talking. The walking is good to time the movement of the tongue by, and to keep the blood and the brain stirred up and active; the scenery and the woodsy smells are good to bear in upon a man an unconscious and unobtrusive charm and solace to eye and soul and sense; but the supreme pleasure comes from the talk.
Competition between footmen gave way during the second half of the 18th century to men racing against time over long distances. 'Pedestrians' (as the walkers were called) could win a very handsome fee for walking dozens -- or even hundreds -- of miles within a proscribed time. Side bets were, of course, very welcome.One of the more popular goals involved covering at least 100 miles in less than 24 hours. Those meeting this goal were (and still are) called Centurions.
(quoted by Phil Howell in A Brief History of Racewalking in the United States, North American Racewalking Foundation)