His fame didn't last much longer than the many extraordinary races he won.
But Joe Scott was New Zealand's first sporting superstar.
The little Dunedin man was even mobbed as a returning hero from England on one occasion, this country's first victory parade.
Just as remarkable as the man himself was the sport he excelled in: pedestrianism, a name which belies how tough this pursuit really was.
More than a century after Scott walked all over his opposition, it is hard to believe that such a long and slow sport – often lasting days - drew such wild attention and big crowds. But it did, for a brief while.
In the late 1800s, huge crowds were packing indoor arenas in Europe and America to watch the first endurance athletes walk round and round for days on end, in 12-hour bursts.
The famous venues included the Royal Agricultural Hall in London and an early version of Madison Square Garden in New York. The races were called matches and the match day experience might include brass bands and food stalls.
Gambling was part of the sport, as were well founded allegations of fixes. Indeed, an Otago Daily Times report details an opponent named Captain Cotton who, feeling unwell, offered the Scott camp money to let Cotton win.
There was even the spectre of performance enhancing drugs - an American champion conceded he chewed coca leaves during a race. American reports suggested champagne was used as a stimulant, and in large, debilitating doses.
Corporate sponsorship in sport is said to have started with pedestrianism, before it faded as an attraction when it became obvious that bicycles provided more interesting racing.
But during its brief heyday, pedestrianism had its very own superstars and in New Zealand's case the champion was undisputed.
Scott was born in 1860, in County Donegal, Ireland. His father was a policeman and the family immigrated to Australia in the 1860s, and then moved on to Dunedin.
A bootmaker, he started racing around the age of 14, a tiny figure at only 105cm tall who beat adults in a two-mile walk although he was disqualified for running.
The trainer who discovered and nurtured him was a certain Alfred Austin, their partnership a forerunner of things to come in New Zealand sport.
It seems as if Scott was rarely beaten.
He became the national champion in 1879 after beating eight other competitors, completing 106 miles in 24 hours. He beat the Australian champion William Edwards on numerous occasions, and the touring British champion Arthur Hancock in 1885 by walking 114 miles in a 24-hour match at Dunedin's Garrison Hall. He created a world 100-mile record, of a minute under 18 hours.
Success did not come easy. He experienced nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea in races, and would take half-hour breaks to recuperate. The races were often held in packed, hot and smoke-filled buildings. Enough food was not always available to the competitors.
In 1887, he headed off for what would be a triumphant tour to England. He beat Hancock again, and won a world championship belt with an incredible 72-hour performance in which he walked 582km (363 miles) over the six days - a distance similar to Auckland to Paraparaumu. The second-placed John Hibberd, who had led by nine miles after two days, ended up the length of a marathon behind.
Reports of the match with Hancock, held in Westminster, are wonderfully descriptive.
"Hancock stood just about as much chance as a cart horse would against a thoroughbred," the Sportsman predicted. "Scott was as fit as possible and the Englishman, or rather Jersey man, was evidently short on training. He was voted too beefy to be any good."
Scott, who was described as an Australian, was helped by "boots specially designed for walking on boards".
Scott was also stopped by an official for wearing a shirt with no sleeves, costing him three laps. The whole thing "fizzled" before a small crowd.
He also raced Hibberd over 24-hours, for 100 pounds in another fizzer. Hibberd struggled with the surface and on turning up the second day "looked anything but well".
After Scott and trainer Austin returned home, they were given a rapturous welcome at the Caledonian sports meeting of 1889. A band played a number called See the Conquering Hero Comes.
Life was tough for Scott. As a precocious talent, he had been held aloft in front of 15,000 spectators at Dunedin after that first race against adults. From there, the trophy cabinet became very full.
He was lauded for a stylish, almost perfect walking technique. He raced for some big prizes.
Yet he died from cancer, aged just 49, with no money to his name.
A Dictionary of New Zealand Biography profile speculates that a lot of the money may have gone to his manager and backers.
His family - he married in 1881 and had seven children — were forced to sell cups and medals to survive while he was in England. He pawned the world championship belt but was declared bankrupt in 1889.
Other sports people collected 45 pounds for a memorial headstone to Joe Scott.
Although Scott is celebrated in the sports Hall of Fame, his name faded from public view a long time ago.
In 1937, the ODT wrote: "…until 1898 Scott's name was a household word throughout the athletic world. He beat the champions of England, America and Australia.
"(His name) is today but a memory to an older generation of athletes."