"The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong.”
Ecclesiastes, Ch. 9, v. 11
New York sports writer and author Damon Runyon (1884-1946) is often credited with adding on “—but that’s the way to bet.” Runyon himself noted that newspaper columnist Franklin P. Adams (1881-1960) had been credited by Bartlett’s Quotations, but Runyon believed the phrase to be from Chicago Tribune sportswriter Hugh Keough (1864-1912). In 1916, “F.P.A” had written: “As Hughey Keough used to say, ‘The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that is where to look.’” A 1912 Chicago Tribune headline reads: “The Race Is Not Always with the Swift, But That’s Where to Look.”
While Franklin P. Adams, Damon Runyon and others credit Hugh Keough with the phrase, a similar ending had been circulating at least as early as when Keough was born (in 1864). Running enthusiasts added a different ending to Ecclesiastes, “The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep on running.”
The Yale Book of Quotations
Edited by Fred R. Shapiro
New Haven, CT: Yale University Press
U.S. writer, 1884-1946
“The race is not alwys to the swift nor the battle to the strong—but that’s the way to bet.”
More Than Somewhat (1937). This quotation is associated with Runyon, but the Chicago Tribune, 10 May 1936, printed the following: “The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that is the way to bet,’ as Hugh Keough used to say.” Keough was a Chicago journalist.
Wikipedia: Hugh Keough
Hugh E. Keough (January 24, 1864 - June 9, 1912) was a Chicago sportswriter who worked as a journalist for thirty-one years, from the age of seventeen until his death. He was born in Hamilton, Ontario.
He worked for the Hamilton Spectator and with newspapers in Indianapolis, Indiana and Logansport, Indiana, before coming to Chicago in the 1880s. He became sports editor of the Chicago Sun Times prior to taking similar positions with the San Francisco Chronicle and the New Orleans Item.
As a writer for the Chicago Tribune, Keough penned the Wake of the News column and a Sunday edition feature, Offside Plays. At various times Wake of the News was written by Ring Lardner, Arch Ward, Hugh Fullerton, Jack Lait, and Harvey Woodruff.
Horse racing enthusiast
Keough was an official at horse racing tracks in the Southern United States and Midwest (United States) for many years. Most notably he was affiliated with Washington Park, Chicago and other Chicago tracks.
Following a decline in midwestern horse racing Keough returned to journalism as managing editor of the Lake County Times in Hammond, Indiana. He maintained a permanent position with the Chicago Tribune from 1906 until the end of his life.
Wikipedia: Franklin Pierce Adams
Franklin Pierce Adams (November 15, 1881, Chicago, Illinois – March 23, 1960, New York City, New York) was an American columnist (under the pen name FPA) and wit, best known for his newspaper column, “The Conning Tower”, and his appearances as a regular panelist on radio’s Information Please. He was a member of the Algonquin Round Table of the 1920s and 1930s.
9 April 1864, Oregon State Journal (Portland, OR), pg. 1:
To be sure the race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong; but it is ninety-nine times in a hundred.
2 March 1912, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. 9:
The Race Is Not Always with the Swift, But That’s Where to Look
By I. E. Sanborn
16 September 1916, Boston (MA) Journal, “The Colyum” by F. P. A. (Franklin P. Adams), pg. 6:
As Hughey Keough used to say, “The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but that is where to look.”
Of divers Ingredients, Discreetly Blended & Seasoned
By Christopher Morley
Garden City, NY: Doubleday, Page & Company
DEMPSEY vs. CARPENTIER
THE race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but as Frank Adams once remarked, the betting is best that way.
11 January 1921, Daily Herald (MS), pg. 2:
The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but their batting average is better.
10 May 1936, Chicago (IL) Daily Tribune, pg. D5:
“The race is not always to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but that is the way to bet,” as Hugh Keough used to say.
Readers’ Choise of the Best Columns of America’s Favorite Newspaperman
By Damon Runyon
Published by Somerset Books, Inc.
Nor do I doubt that Franklin P. Adams said, as reported in Bartlett’s Familiar Quotations, “the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but the betting is best that way,” only I think Hughey Keough said it first.
7 October 1948, New York (NY) Times, pg. 3 ad:
It was a poet who said that the race was not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong. The practical wiseacre said, “But that is the way to bet.”
The Horse Professor
Monday, Sep. 13, 1954
The battle may not always be to the strong, or the race to the swift—but that’s the way to bet.
The rest of Eccl. 9:11 is The race is not always to the swift nor the battle to the strong......time and chance play a part.” It is terrific verse---have seen it happen .