I ran across this on reddit somewhere a while ago, posted it on FB, and am now posting it here because it needs to be seen.
There’s bizarre history, and then there’s the Marathon at the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis History.
- The first place finisher did most of the race in a car. He had intended to drop out, and got a car back to the stadium to get his change of clothes, and just kind of started jogging when he heard the fanfare.
- The second place finisher was carried across the finish line, legs technically twitching, by his trainers. They had been refusing him water, and giving him a mixture of Brandy and Rat Poison for the entire race. Doping wasn’t illegal yet (and this was a terrible attempt at it), so he got the gold when the First guy was revealed.
- Third finisher was unremarkable, somehow.
- Fourth finisher was a Cuban Mailman, who had raised the funds to attend the Olympics by running non-stop around his entire country. He landed in New Orleans, and promptly lost all of the travelling money on a riverboat casino. He ran the race in dress shoes and long trousers (cut off at the knee by a fellow competitor with a knife). He probably would have come in first (well, second, behind the car) had it not been for the hour nap he took on the side of the track after eating rotten apples he found on the side of the race.
- 9th and 12th finishers were from South Africa, and ran barefoot. South Africa didn’t actually send a delegation – these were students who just happened to be in town and thought it sounded fun. 9th was chased a mile off course by angry dogs. Note: These are the first Africans to compete in any modern Olympic event.
- Half the participants had never raced competitively before. Some died.
- St. Louis only had one water stop on the entire run. This, coupled with the dusty road, and exacerbated by the cars kicking up dust, lead to the above fatalities. And yet, somehow, Rat Poison guy survived to get the Gold. The one water stop was an intentional design choice and not simply lack of oversight. The director wanted to test his theory on “purposeful dehydration” -during a marathon, on unpaved roads, while it was over 90F outside…
- The Russian delegation arrived a week late, because they were still using the Julian calendar. In 1904.