"Life, it's said, is a marathon. But Charles Kastner shows us in vivid, historical detail that the life of runner Eddie Gardner was unique—a race that serves as an engrossing example of what it means to be resilient."—Kevin Patrick Allen, Documentary Producer
"This powerful book has the potential of placing long distance running in its rightful place center stage in the history and struggle of the African-American athlete. . . . A must read for readers interested in sport history."—Donald Spivey, Distinguished Professor of History at the University of Miami
"Charles Kastner spotlights the heroics of a previously unappreciated athlete in Eddie Gardner, who participated in a bizarre sporting event many years ago that few people remember. I applaud his efforts to give the Bunion Derbies their due as a quintessential American footrace."—David Davis, author of Waterman: The Life and Times of Duke Kahanamoku
"Kastner brilliantly delves into the phenomenon of transcontinental racing and the heroics of Eddie Gardner, an athlete on par with Jesse Owens and Joe Louis who combated Jim Crow laws while competing as a black person in a super-human challenge across America. I felt like I was right there beside him the whole way, a truly epic book!"—Dave Warady, Winner of the 1992 Runner’s World Trans America Footrace
"Race Across America captures the magnitude of challenges faced by Eddie Gardner as he competed in the greatest race on earth: desert heat, hours of mental and physical strain, endless mountains, intense rain, and racial barriers; and the winning spirit it took for him to reach the finish line."—Lorna Michael, 2018 Ultrarunner Hall of Fame
"Chuck Kastner masterfully brings to light the story of Eddie Gardner, the first great African American Ultramarathon runner of the 20th Century and in doing so, provides a powerful lesson in American and Civil Rights history."—Gary Corbitt, National Black Marathoners Association
"A fascinating look at the birth of transcontinental ultra-running, the courageous men who competed more than 90 years ago, and African American Eddie 'The Sheik' Gardner who ultimately endured the most."—Gary Theriault, ultra and adventure runner, ten-time Kona Ironman triathlon finisher
On April 23, 1929, the second annual Transcontinental Foot Race across America, known as the Bunion Derby, was in its twenty-fifth day. Eddie “the Sheik” Gardner, an African American runner from Seattle, was leading the race across the Free Bridge over the Mississippi River. Along with the signature outfit that earned him his nickname—a white towel tied around his head, white shorts, and a white shirt—Gardner wore an American flag, a reminder to all who saw him run through the Jim Crow South that he was an American and the leader of the greatest footrace in the world.
Kastner traces Gardner’s remarkable journey from his birth in 1897 in Birmingham, Alabama, to his success in Seattle, Washington, as one of the top long-distance runners in the region, and finally to his participation in two transcontinental footraces where he risked his life, facing a barrage of harassment for having the audacity to compete with white runners. Kastner shows how Gardner’s participation became a way to protest the endemic racism he faced, heralding the future of nonviolent efforts that would be instrumental to the civil rights movement. Shining a bright light on his extraordinary athletic accomplishments and his heroism on the dusty roads of America in the 1920s, Kastner gives Gardner and other black bunioneers the attention they so richly deserve.
Charles B. Kastner is a long-distance runner and the author of The 1929 Bunion Derby: Johnny Salo and the Great Footrace across America. To learn more about Chuck Kastner, visit CharlesKastner.com.
6 x 9, 336 pages, 22 black and white illustrations, 12 maps