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One of the more unusual pastimes to appear on the gold fields was the sport of pedestrianism. With so much ready wealth being made on the goldfields it was unsurprising that gambling was an accepted social activity and method of relieving boredom. Games such as Fan Tan were popular amongst Chinese diggers, whilst Europeans bet on a wide assortment of sports, from dog fighting to horse racing, and gambled with cards as well. In fact diggers were known to gamble on just about anything. Gambling was a source of entertainment and it was also seen as a way of making money.

The origins of pedestrianism are uncertain, but there is no doubt that it was a popular pastime on the goldfields, drawing large crowds. Contenders would announce their determination to cover a certain distance within a specified time and bets would be placed on the outcome. The distance was often completed in the form of laps, rather than in a straight line. Laps of a town block or even the inside of a theatre seem to have been the norm, which allowed spectators to witness the ‘feat’ of endurance.

Rebecca Sanders

Talbot, Diann, The Buckland Valley goldfield, Specialty Press Albury, Albury, 2004. Details