Norma Roupe's father wasn't one to brag.
The 80-year-old Oklahoma City resident said her dad, the late Andy Payne, rarely talked about the International Trans-Continental Foot Race from Los Angeles to New York that he won in 1928, logging more than 3,400 miles in 84 days.
“When I was a little girl, other people would talk to me about it,” Roupe said. “I don't think it occurred to me what a feat it was until I was a lot older.”
On Sunday, the annual Andy Payne Memorial Marathon will be held in Stars and Stripes Park at Lake Hefner in memory of Payne and his remarkable achievement.
“The whole thing is rather astounding,” said Milly Griffis of Norman, who authored a book about Payne and the Bunion Derby.
Payne, who died in 1977 at age 70, was just 20 years old in 1928 when he entered the transcontinental race against 198 other runners from America, Africa and Europe.
Payne, who was part Cherokee, was running for the first place prize of $25,000 so he could save his family's farm at Foyil and marry his sweetheart.
His father took out a bank loan so his son could travel to California and enter the race, which the press corps dubbed the Bunion Derby because so many runners suffered foot injuries.
It was organized by flamboyant promoter C.C. Pyle, often called Cash and Carry Pyle, who was a theater owner and sports agent.
Pyle represented American football star Red Grange, who traveled with the runners along with press corps and a carnival caravan to entertain crowds and raise money.
He had pitched the idea for the race to the Route 66 Association, based in Tulsa, as a way to publicize the new road that opened two years earlier. The Los Angeles-to-Chicago portion of the race would be on U.S. 66.
Pyle also wanted to make money from the event. He charged each competitor a $25 entry fee and a $100 deposit, which Pyle saved in case the runners dropped out and needed money to get back home.
The starting line for the Bunion Derby was the now-defunct Ascot Speedway in Los Angeles. The finish line was at Madison Square Garden in New York.
The runners had a designated amount of miles to complete each day and times would be recorded for each leg.
Payne was a high school track star and could run like the wind, Griffis said.
“He could outrun horses,” she said. “People would challenge him and put up money and he would outrace horses.”
But this race was going to be a test of endurance. Payne developed tonsillitis during the race, but he still ran during the day and collapsed at night.
Payne was one of only 54 runners to finish the race. He ran the road in 573 hours over 84 days, an average of 6 miles an hour.
He used part of the prize winnings to pay off the mortgage on the family farm. The notoriety he gained from the race later led to his election as clerk of the Oklahoma Supreme Court, where he served for 38 years.
Payne never entered another race after the Bunion Derby.
His daughter, who was born two years after the Bunion Derby, thinks her father was prouder of the law degree he later earned than winning the race.
“He really played everything down,” Roupe said. “He didn't talk like as if the race was grueling. That he just ran the race. He talked more about when he was in high school and getting bored and hopping freights and going to California. He talked about those adventures more.”
In the past, filmmakers have approached Roupe with the idea for a movie about her father, but none has been made.
Roupe invested his prize winnings wisely, buying land and mineral rights. Roupe still lives comfortably today as a result.
And the Foyil farm that Payne saved is still in the family.
“We still have it,” she said. “A cousin of mine lives on it. A lot of the Paynes are up there.”
Andy Payne Memorial Marathon
Where: Stars and Stripes Park, Lake Hefner
When: 6:30 a.m. Sunday