Well, three of you got the right answer to my question. The runner in
question was known as Deerfoot (and sometimes as Red Jacket). Born at
Catteraugus, near Buffalo, N.Y. around 1825, he was a native American.
  In the 1860s, amateur track and field had not yet started in Britain
(it began 10-20 years later). Running was a professional sport, associated
with the same social classes as horse racing and boxing. Runners would
race each other for a sum of money they (or their rich sponsors) had put
down. Sometimes a single runner would wager that he could run a certain
distance in a specified time. The public was interested in betting on the
outcome and such races attracted crowds of 4000 (men only, the
surroundings were thought too dangerous for women to attend!).
  During a visit to the US in 1861, the manager of 3 British runners
noticed Deerfoot's performance in coming second to one of his runners and
invited him to come to race in Britain. During the autumn of 1861,
Deerfoot raced England's best runners each Monday evening at various
venues all over England. He disdained spiked shoes and ran in moccasins,
with bare torso (in all weathers). I think the accuracy of times and
distances can be guaranteed by the fact that the public had money
depending on the result, so that the organisers went to great lengths to
ensure everything was correct, even measuring the track in front of the
public before the race. They didn't want any riots afterwards.
  Deerfoot's tactics seemed to be reminscent of that of Vladimir Kuts in
the Melbourne Olympic 10km of 1956, that is, hard bursts of speed which
broke the pursuers after some time.
  During 1862, his manager constructed a wooden track which was
transported around the country in order to visit as many towns as possible
and cash in on Deerfoot's fame. However this endeavour was eventually
ruined financially. 
  In 1863, Deerfoot produced some performances that were way ahead of his
time: 11 miles 790 yards in 1 hour on January 12th after torrential rain
(there was no running season then, runners ran all the year round in all
conditions); 11 miles 880 yards in 59 min. 44 sec. in February (since the
bet was to run 11 and a half miles in an hour, he stopped when he had done
this, and did not continue the extra 16 seconds); 11 miles 970 yards in 1
hour on April 3. In between there were races at other distances as 
well. Finally, he returned to the US in May 1863, quite rich from
his winnings. He died in the Catteraugus Reservation on January 18th 1897.
  To put these performances into perspective, the English marathon runner
Jim Peters, who brought the marathon world best time down from 2 hr 30 to
2h 17 in the early 1950s, set an English 1 hour record of 11 miles 986
yards in 1953, just 16 yards ahead of Deerfoot's distance achieved 90
years previously. Bearing in mind the advances in tracks, training
knowledge and shoes in that 90 years, one can see that Deerfoot's
achievements should at least put him into consideration as the greatest US
distance runner ever.
  All this information is taken from "The Kings of Distance : a study of
five great runners" by Peter Lovesey, published by Eyre & Spottiswoode in
                                                    David Dallman

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