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Athletics at the 1904 Summer Olympics – Men's marathon

The men's marathon at the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis took place on August 30 of that year, over a distance of 24.85 miles (39.99 km).[2] Thirty-two athletes representing four nations competed, but only 14 managed to finish the race,[3] which proved to be a bizarre affair due to poor organization and officiating.[4]

Men's marathon
at the Games of the III Olympiad
Marathon Hicks1904.jpg
Thomas Hicks and supporters
VenueSt. Louis
DatesAugust 30
Competitors32 from 4 nations
1st, gold medalist(s) Thomas Hicks  United States
2nd, silver medalist(s) Albert Corey[1]  United States
3rd, bronze medalist(s) Arthur Newton  United States
← 1900
1908 →
Andarín Carvajal on his way to the fourth place.

Instead of having the marathon begin early in the morning, St. Louis organizers started it in the afternoon. Temperatures during the marathon reached 33 °C (92 °F)[5][6] and humidity reached into the 90s,[7] making the heat index during the marathon about 57 °C (135 °F). The race began and ended in the stadium, but the rest of the course was on dusty country roads with race officials riding in vehicles ahead of and behind the runners, creating dust clouds.

Deliberate dehydrationEdit

The only source of water for the competitors was a well at about the 11-mile mark.[4]James E. Sullivan was a chief organizer of the Olympics, and decided to allow only one water station on the 24.85 mile course of the marathon even though it was conducted in 32 °C (90 °F) heat over unpaved roads choked with dust. His ostensible reason was to conduct research on "purposeful dehydration," even though dehydration is potentially fatal. The marathon ended with the worst ratio of entrants to finishers (14 of 32) and by far the slowest winning time, 3:28:45, almost 30 minutes slower than the second slowest winning time.[7]


These were the standing world and Olympic records (in hours) prior to the 1904 Summer Olympics.

World Record none
Olympic Record 2'58:50(*)   Spiridon Louis Athens (GRE) April 10, 1896 (NS)

(*) Distance was also 40 kilometres


The first to arrive at the finish line was American runner Fred Lorz, who had actually dropped out of the race after nine miles and hitched a ride back to the stadium in a car, waving at spectators and runners alike during the ride. When the car broke down at the 19th mile, Lorz re-entered the race and jogged across the finish line.[7] After being hailed as the winner, he had his photograph taken with Alice Roosevelt, daughter of then-U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, and was about to be awarded the gold medal when his subterfuge was revealed. Upon being confronted by officials, Lorz immediately admitted his deception, and despite his claims he was joking, the AAU responded by banning him from competition for life. In any case, Lorz was reinstated in 1905 after he apologized for the stunt and it was found that he had not intended to defraud.[4][8]

British-born Thomas Hicks of the United States ended up the winner of the event, although he was aided by measures that would not have been permitted in later years. Ten miles from the finish Hicks led the race by a mile and a half, but he had to be restrained from stopping and lying down by his trainers. From then until the end of the race, Hicks received several doses of strychnine (a common rat poison, which stimulates the nervous system in small doses) mixed with brandy.[4] He continued to battle onwards, hallucinating, barely able to walk for most of the course. When he reached the stadium his support team carried him over the line, holding him in the air while he shuffled his feet as if still running. The judges decided this was acceptable, and gave him the gold medal. Hicks had to be carried off the track, and might have died in the stadium had he not been treated by several doctors.[9]

Another near-fatality during the event was William Garcia of the United States. He was found lying in the road along the marathon course with severe internal injuries caused by breathing the clouds of dust kicked up by the race officials' cars.[4] A Cuban postman named Andarín Carvajal joined the marathon, arriving at the last minute.[7] After losing all of his money in New Orleans, Louisiana, he hitchhiked to St. Louis and had to run the event in street clothes that he cut around the legs to make them look like shorts. Not having eaten in 40 hours, he stopped off in an orchard en route to have a snack on some apples, which turned out to be rotten.[7] The rotten apples caused him to have strong stomach cramps and to have to lie down and take a nap. Despite falling ill from the apples and taking a nap, he finished in fourth place.[7]

The marathon included the first two black Africans to compete in the Olympics: two Tswana tribesmen named Len Tau (real name: Len Taunyane) and Yamasani (real name: Jan Mashiani). Len Tau finished ninth and Yamasani came in twelfth. This was a disappointment, as many observers were sure Len Tau could have done better if he had not been chased nearly a mile off course by aggressive dogs.[8]

Arriving without correct documents, French immigrant to the United States Albert Corey is inconsistently listed as performing in a mixed team in the four mile team race and performing for the US in the marathon.[8]


Place Athlete Time
1   Thomas Hicks (USA) 3:28:53
2   Albert Corey (USA)[1]
3   Arthur Newton (USA) 3:47:33
4   Andarín Carvajal (CUB) Unknown
5   Domitrios Veloulis (GRE) Unknown
6   David Kneeland (USA) Unknown
7   Henry Brawley (USA) Unknown
8   Sidney Hatch (USA) Unknown
9   Len Tau (RSA) Unknown
10   Christos Zechouritis (GRE) Unknown
11   Harry Devlin (USA) Unknown
12   Jan Mashiani (RSA) Unknown
13   John Furla (USA) Unknown
14   Andrew Oikonomou (GRE) Unknown
  Edward P. Carr (USA) DNF
  Georgios Drosos (GRE) DNF
  Robert Fowler (USA) DNF
  John Foy (USA) DNF
  William Garcia (USA) DNF
  Kharilaos Giannakas (GRE) DNF
  Bertie Harris (RSA) DNF
  Thomas J. Kennedy (USA) DNF
  John Lordon (USA) DNF
  Ioannis Loungitsas (GRE) DNF
  Georgios Louridas (GRE) DNF
  Samuel Mellor (USA) DNF
  Frank Pierce (USA) DNF
  Petros Pipiles (GRE) DNF
  Guy Porter (USA) DNF
  Michael Spring (USA) DNF
  Georgios Vamkaitis (GRE) DNF
DISQ   Frederick Lorz (USA) 3:13:00


  1. ^ a b Corey was a French immigrant to the United States. The IOC lists him as an American competitor in Marathon, and as a French competitor in the Relay.
  2. ^ Logman, Jeré (April 20, 2012). "The Marathon's Random Route to Its Length". The New York Times. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  3. ^ "Athletics at the 1904 St. Louis Summer Games: Men's Marathon". Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  4. ^ a b c d e Wallechinsky, David (1984). The Complete Book of the Olympics. New York: Penguin Books. pp. 44–45. ISBN 0140066322.
  5. ^ "ST LOUIS EADS BRG, MISSOURI (237460)". Western Regional Climate Center. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  6. ^ USA Track & Field (2004). "2004 USA Olympic Team Trials: Men's Marathon Media Guide Supplement" (pdf). Santa Barbara, California: USA Track & Field. p. 11. Retrieved February 21, 2011.
  7. ^ a b c d e f Karen Abbott (2012). "The 1904 Olympic Marathon May Have Been The Strangest Ever". Smithsonian Magazine.
  8. ^ a b c Cronin, Brian (August 10, 2010). "Sports Legend Revealed: A marathon runner nearly died". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  9. ^ Aliya Whiteley (2015). "The Strange Story of the 1904 Olympic Games Marathon". Mentalfloss. Archived from the original on October 11, 2016. Retrieved January 20, 2019.