Sunday, 18 December 2011

Chicago 1904 - The Marathon.

The Marathon was run on a brutally hot day with horses and automobiles kicking up dust clouds. The first to arrive at the finish line was Frederick Lorz but he had actually abandoned the race after 9 miles, covered most of the course in a car which broke down 5 miles from the end and was coming back to collect his clothes. When the officials thought he had won the race, Lorz played along but was found out shortly after the medal ceremony when Thomas Hicks arrived.

The gold was therefore awarded to Hicks but had the race been run under current rules, he too would have been disqualified because he had been given a heavy dose of strychnine and brandy during the race. His first dose did not revive him for long, so he was given another. As a result, he had to be helped across the line, then collapsed and had to be attended to by doctors. Another dose could have killed him yet news of his win led to widespread outrage that strychnine cocktails had not been made available to all the athletes.

A Cuban postman named Felix Carbajal also joined the marathon, arriving at the last minute. He had to run in street clothes that he cut around the legs to make them look like shorts. He stopped off in an orchard en route to have a snack on some apples but they turned out to be rotten and caused him to have to lie down and take a nap. Despite falling ill to the apples he finished in fourth place.

The 1904 marathon also included the first two black Africans to compete in the Olympics; two Tswana tribesmen named Len Tau and Yamasani. They weren't actually there to compete in the Olympics, they had been brought over by the exposition as part of a Boer War exhibit (both were really students from Orange Free State in South Africa). Len Tau finished ninth and Yamasani came in twelfth but many observers were sure Len Tau could have done better if he had not been chased nearly a mile off course by aggressive dogs.

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