Athletics at the 1896 Summer Olympics – Men's marathon

The men's marathon event was a special race invented as part of the Athletics at the 1896 Summer Olympics programme. Seventeen athletes from 5 nations competed.[1] It was the capstone of the athletics programme. The event was won by Spyridon Louis and was the only Greek victory in athletics

Men's marathon
at the Games of the I Olympiad
Louis entering Kallimarmaron at the 1896 Athens Olympics.jpg
Spyridon Louis entering the stadium at the end of the marathon
VenueMarathon to Athens
DateApril 10
Competitors17 from 5 nations
Winning time2:58:50 OR
1st place, gold medalist(s) Spyridon Louis
2nd place, silver medalist(s) Charilaos Vasilakos
3rd place, bronze medalist(s) Gyula Kellner
1900 →


Michel Bréal originated the idea of a race from the city of Marathon to Athens, taking inspiration from the legend of Pheidippides. The first such marathon race was a Greek national competition that served as a qualifier for the Olympic marathon, won by Charilaos Vasilakos. The length of the marathon in 1896 was approximately 40 km (25 mi).[2]

Twenty-five athletes traveled to Marathon for the race from there to Athens, though only seventeen actually began the race.

At least one woman, Stamata Revithi, attempted to enter the race but was rejected. Officially the reason given was that her entry came after the deadline; unofficially, the reason was her gender.[3] She ran the course on her own the next day, covering the distance in 5.5 hours.[4] There are references to a woman named Melpomene attempting to run; there is dispute whether this was a second woman or instead it was Revithi.[5]


Just as in the 1500 metre race, Albin Lermusiaux took the lead early. Edwin Flack and Arthur Blake maintained second and third place until Blake dropped out at 23 kilometres. At 32 kilometres, Lermusiaux dropped out as well, leaving Flack in the lead. However, Spyridon Louis was making full use of his endurance to gain slowly on Flack.

Exhausted from trying to maintain his pace, Flack dropped out of the race with three kilometres left. Louis was left alone at the front, finishing the 40 kilometre race in one minutes and ten seconds under three hours.

Vasilakos finished second, followed 30 seconds later by Spyridon Belokas, who held off Gyula Kellner, with Kellner subsequently lodging a protest, claiming Belokas had covered part of the course by carriage after having supposedly dropped out of the race. The protest was upheld, and Belokas was disqualified.


Marathon distances at the time were not standardized and records were not officially recognized. The best time in a qualifying race was by Lavrentis.[6]

World record   Ioannis Lavrentis (GRE) 3:11:27 (u) n/a n/a
Olympic record New event n/a n/a n/a

Spyridon Louis ran the Olympic marathon in 2:58:50, an Olympic record and unofficial world best.


The runners traveled to the town of Marathon on Thursday night. They assembled on the starting bridge at 2 p.m. on Friday.[7]

Date Time Round
Gregorian Julian
Friday, 10 April 1896 Friday, 29 March 1896 14:00 Final


Rank Athlete Nation Time Notes
  Spyridon Louis   Greece 2:58:50 OR
  Charilaos Vasilakos   Greece 3:06:03
  Gyula Kellner   Hungary 3:06:35
4 Ioannis Vrettos   Greece Unknown
5 Eleftherios Papasymeon   Greece Unknown
6 Dimitrios Deligiannis   Greece Unknown
7 Evangelos Gerakeris   Greece Unknown
8 Stamatios Masouris   Greece Unknown
9 Sokratis Lagoudakis   Greece Unknown [1]
Edwin Flack   Australia DNF (37 km)
Albin Lermusiaux   France DNF (32 km)
Ioannis Lavrentis   Greece DNF (24 km)
Georgios Grigoriou   Greece DNF (24 km)
Arthur Blake   United States DNF (23 km)
Ilias Kafetzis   Greece DNF (9 km)
Dimitrios Christopoulos   Greece DNF (? km)
Spyridon Belokas   Greece 3:06:30 DQ
Burton Holmes' photograph entitled "1896: Three athletes in training for the marathon at the Olympic Games in Athens".


  • Lampros, S.P.; Polites, N.G.; De Coubertin, Pierre; Philemon, P.J. & Anninos, C. (1897). The Olympic Games: BC 776 – AD 1896. Athens: Charles Beck. (Digitally available at
  • Mallon, Bill & Widlund, Ture (1998). The 1896 Olympic Games. Results for All Competitors in All Events, with Commentary. Jefferson: McFarland. ISBN 0-7864-0379-9. (Excerpt available at
  • Smith, Michael Llewellyn (2004). Olympics in Athens 1896. The Invention of the Modern Olympic Games. London: Profile Books. ISBN 1-86197-342-X.
  1. ^ a b "Marathon, Men". Olympedia. Retrieved 22 August 2020.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Martin, David E.; Gynn, Roger W. H. (2000). "The Olympic Marathon". Running through the Ages. Human Kinetics. pp. 12, 21. ISBN 0-88011-969-1.
  4. ^ Martin & Gynn, Running through the Ages, 22; Tarasouleas, Stamata Revithi, "Alias Melpomeni", 55; Tarasouleas, The Female Spiridon Loues, 12. However, some of the authors who believe that "Melpomene" and Revithi are the same person attribute to the latter the more favorable time of 4½ hours. E.g. Miragaya, The Female Olympian, 314, who cites DeFrantz, A. (1997). "The Changing Role of Women in the Olympic Games". 37th International Session for Young Participants – IOA Report. Ancient Olympia: International Olympic Academy.
  5. ^ Martin & Gynn, Running through the Ages, 20–21
  6. ^ Martin, Dr. David (2000). "Marathon running as a social and athletic phenomenon: historical and current trends". In Pedoe, Dan Tunstall (ed.). Marathon Medicine. London: Royal Society of Medicine Press. p. 31. ISBN 9781853154607.
  7. ^ Official Report, p. 86.