The 1904 Olympics Marathon: horror show or most amazing thing ever?

April 28, 2021 at 1:44 pm (Randomosity) (, , , , , , )

I recently learned about the 1904 Olympics Marathon.

For background, there is one thing you should know (well, there’s a lot of things you should know and I will get to them, but this specific thing is wonderfully horrible, so I wanted to open with it):

The good people of the early 20th century had a theory about water and athletes. And that theory was: WATER IS BAD FOR ATHLETES NO WATER FOR YOU NO

Which is why there was only ONE WATER STOP in the entire marathon course, and also why the winning runner, when pleading for a drink, was given brandy, plus a mixture of egg whites and strychnine.

Water = bad, Poison = good

As you can probably imagine, the winner (Thomas Hicks) began to hallucinate, nearly died and had to be carried over the finish line.

Apparently, his little legs were going the whole time anyway, so this is basically how I pictured the poor, poisoned bastard.

But the hi-jinks don’t end there!

Originally, Thomas Hicks (again, a man who had been given booze and poison and was carried across the finish line) was not the first one to complete the race! That honor goes to Fred Lorz, who dropped out of this hell race at about the 9-mile mark —

Pictured here: Fred Lorz, pleading for water

— and hitched a ride in a car for several miles. Feeling better (presumably after having licked the dew off the car’s windshield or something), he decided to hop out and run the rest of the way. Being a bit of a practical joker, he decided, “heck, why not just go for it!” and jogged across the finish line, waving to fans and meeting the president’s daughter and being awarded a medal before being stripped of it by people who just can’t take a joke, apparently.

And, yeah, this is absolutely the face of a dude who would stroll across the finish line of a race and be like “what.”

But he’s not even the coolest person in this ridiculous race!

I mean, other than the guy whose esophagus started bleeding from all the dust coating it from this horrible, evil devil’s course, there’s also:

Cuban mail carrier Félix Carvajal!

He arrived in formal attire, basically, and one of his competitors nicely helped him out by cutting off the bottom of his pants and making these fancy capris for him.

He placed fourth, but might have done better had he not stopped to eat some rotten apples —

“Apples, please, apples”

— and then took a nap to recover.

In his later life, he was supposed to compete in Greece, but disappeared somewhere in Italy, was pronounced dead, but then showed up a few months later, not dead at all and WHY HAS NO ONE MADE A MOVIE ABOUT THIS MAN

Then there was Len Taunyane! He placed ninth, and let me just directly quote from his Wikipedia entry here: “This was a disappointment, as many observers were sure that Taunyane could have done better if he had not been chased nearly a mile off course by aggressive dogs.”

When asked, the race’s organizers were like “Well, if the esophagus-tearing dust, poison and dehydration wasn’t enough, we figured we needed to add some terrifying hell hounds just to make sure these guys were really trying.”

Taunyane ran alongside his countryman Jan Mashiani, who came in twelfth. And now I’m just going to throw in a picture of these badasses, because they look about as happy to be at this godawful marathon as anyone would be.

Also to point out that Taunyane (on the right [I mean OUR right]) not only battled off vicious dogs, dehydration, dudes offering shots of poison, rotten apples and all that fecking dust, DID THIS ALL WITHOUT SHOES! NO SHOES HAD HE! NONE! SHOELESS HE RAN!

I feel like, at this point, I should mention it was also 90 degrees that day.



And you all thought I was exaggerating when I used this picture.

Anyway! The 1904 Olympics marathon was a nightmare for those involved, and the organizer of the race, James E. Sullivan, announced that it was too brutal a sport for mankind and should be abolished or something.

Mind you, this is the dude who was like “no water stops for these happy assholes!”

“Mwa ha ha ha!” he was quoted as saying.

Anyway, here’s a picture of a children’s book about the whole ordeal, because I’ve been yammering on for a very, very long time now.

Aww, everyone is so cute here instead of nearly dead.

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