Athletics at the 1904 Summer Olympics – men's marathon

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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
Winning time3:28:53
1st place, gold medalist(s) Thomas Hicks
 United States
2nd place, silver medalist(s) Albert Corey
3rd place, bronze medalist(s) Arthur Newton
 United States
← 1900
1908 →

The men's marathon at the 1904 Summer Olympics in St. Louis, United States, took place on August 30 of that year, over a distance of 24.85 miles (40 km).[1]

The race was run during the hottest part of the day on dusty country roads with minimal water supply; while 32 athletes representing 7 nations (USA, France, Cuba, Greece, South Africa, Great Britain, and Canada) competed, only 14 managed to complete the race,[2] which was a bizarre affair due to poor organization and officiating.[3] While Frederick Lorz was greeted as the apparent winner, he was later disqualified as he had hitched a ride in a car for part of the race. The actual winner, Thomas Hicks, was near collapse and hallucinating by the end of the race, a side effect of being administered brandy, raw eggs, and strychnine by his trainers. The fourth-place finisher, Andarín Carvajal, took a nap during the race after eating spoiled apples.


1904 marathon participants Tau and Mashiani stand in a stadium looking at the camera, both wearing hats
Mashiani (left) and Taunyane before the race[4]

This was the third appearance of the marathon event, which is one of 12 athletics events to have been held at every Summer Olympics. Arthur L. Newton of the United States was the only runner from 1900 to return, while other significant American runners included the winners of the past three Boston Marathons: 1902 winner Sammy Mellor, 1903 winner John Lordon, and 1904 winner Michael Spring.[5]

Cuba and South Africa each made their first appearance in the event, while the United States was the only nation to have runners in each of the first three Olympic marathons.

The marathon included the first two black Africans to compete in the Olympics: two Tswana men named Len Taunyane and Jan Mashiani, who happened to be in St. Louis as part of the South African exhibit at the 1904 World's Fair.[6] Both had served as long-distance message runners during the then-recent Boer War.[7] Although some accounts report that both ran barefoot, Mashiani was shod in photographs taken during the event.[4][7]

Competition format[edit]

The marathon distance had not yet been standardized; in St. Louis, the course was 24.85 miles (40 km). St. Louis organizers started the marathon at 3 pm, whereas most contemporary marathons start in the early morning to take advantage of cooler times of day.

The start included five laps around the stadium track;[5] the rest of the course was on dusty country roads, with race officials riding in vehicles ahead of and behind the runners: this created dust clouds that exacerbated the severely hot and humid conditions,[6] with a temperature of around 90 degrees Fahrenheit (32 degrees Celsius) at start time.[7] The course was not cleared of obstacles for the marathon, and the road quality was poor. The runners had to "constantly dodge cross-town traffic, delivery wagons, railroad trains, trolley cars and people walking their dogs."[6] The course eventually ended back in the stadium.[7]


During the race, John Lordan, who had won the 1903 Boston Marathon, was violently ill after 10 miles and retired, while Sam Mellor, who had won the 1902 Boston Marathon, was also overcome by the dust; despite leading the field at the halfway mark, Mellor dropped out of the race after 16 miles.[7] 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.[3]

The first to arrive at the finish line, after three hours and 13 minutes (more than 13 minutes slower than the winning time in 1900) was Fred Lorz. 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.

Lorz, suffering cramps, 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, he re-entered the race and jogged across the finish line.[6] Upon being confronted by officials, Lorz immediately admitted his deception, and despite his claim that he was joking, the AAU responded by banning him for life; this was later reduced to a year after it was found that he had not intended to defraud. Lorz later won the 1905 Boston Marathon.[3][8]

A gaunt man sits in an automobile looking exhausted, with a group of men surrounding him, looking considerably healthier. All are looking at the camera.
Hicks resting after his victory

Thomas Hicks ended up the winner of the event, although he was aided by measures that would not have been permitted after the late 1960s.[9] 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 and an egg white.[3] 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.[6] Hicks had to be carried off the track, and might have died in the stadium had he not been treated by several doctors. He lost eight pounds during the course of the marathon.[6][10]

Cuban postman Andarín Carvajal had also joined the marathon, arriving at the last minute.[6] After losing all of his money gambling 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 into shorts. Not having eaten in 40 hours, he saw a spectator eating 2 peaches. He asked if he could have the peaches, and the spectator declined. He then stole both peaches and ran away. Later, he stopped off in an orchard en route to eat some apples, which turned out to be rotten.[6] The rotten apples caused him to have strong stomach cramps, and he had to lie down and take a nap. Despite falling ill from the apples, and taking a nap, he still managed to finish in fourth place.[6][10][11]

Arriving without correct documents, Albert Corey, a French immigrant to the United States, is inconsistently listed as participating in a mixed team in the four mile team race (with four undisputed Americans) and competing for the US in the marathon.[8] The South African entrants, Len Taunyane and Jan Mashiani, finished ninth and twelfth, respectively; this was a disappointment, as many observers were sure Taunyane could have done better if he had not been chased nearly a mile off course by wild dogs.[8]


The only two sources of water for the competitors were a water tower at six miles and a well at about the 12-mile mark.[3][6] James E. Sullivan was a chief organizer of the Olympics and set up no other water sources along 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". 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.[6]


Date Time Round
Tuesday, 30 August 1904 15:00 Final


Rank Athlete Nation Time
1 Thomas Hicks  United States 3:28:53
2 Albert Corey  France
3 Arthur Newton  United States 3:47:33
4 Andarín Carvajal  Cuba Unknown
5 Dimitrios Veloulis  Greece
6 David Kneeland  United States
7 Harry Brawley  United States
8 Sidney Hatch  United States
9 Len Taunyane  South Africa
10 Christos Zechouritis  Greece
11 Harry Devlin  United States
12 Jan Mashiani  South Africa
13 John Furla  United States
14 Andrew Oikonomou  Greece
DSQ Frederick Lorz  United States 3:13:00
Edward P. Carr  United States DNF
Georgios Drosos  Greece
Robert Fowler  United States
John Foy  United States
William Garcia  United States
Kharilaos Giannakas  Greece
Bertie Harris  South Africa
Thomas J. Kennedy  United States
John Lordon  United States
Ioannis Loungitsas  Greece
Georgios Louridas  Greece
Samuel Mellor  United States
Frank Pierce  United States
Petros Pipiles  Greece
Guy Porter  United States
Michael Spring  United States
Georgios Vamkaitis  Greece
Louis Crancer  United States DNS
John Daly  Great Britain
William Heritage  United States
John Kennedy  United States
Konstantinos Lontos  United States
William Meyer  United States
Billy Sherring  Canada
Dimitrios Tsokas  Greece


  1. ^ Logman, Jeré (April 20, 2012). "The Marathon's Random Route to Its Length". The New York Times. The New York Times. Archived from the original on June 14, 2017. Retrieved February 3, 2016.
  2. ^ "Athletics at the 1904 St. Louis Summer Games: Men's Marathon". Archived from the original on April 17, 2020. Retrieved July 22, 2017.
  3. ^ a b c d e Wallechinsky, David (1984). The Complete Book of the Olympics. New York: Penguin Books. pp. 44–45. ISBN 0140066322.
  4. ^ a b van der Merwe, Floris J.G. (1999). "Africa's First Encounter with the Olympic Games In....1904" (PDF). Journal of Olympic History. September 1999. Archived (PDF) from the original on May 22, 2021. Retrieved May 22, 2021 – via International Society of Olympic Historians – ISOH.
  5. ^ a b "Marathon, Men". Olympedia. Archived from the original on November 3, 2020. Retrieved August 23, 2020.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Abbott, Karen (August 7, 2012). "The 1904 Olympic Marathon May Have Been The Strangest Ever". Smithsonian Magazine. Archived from the original on February 9, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c d e Matthews, George R.; Marshall, Sandra (2003). St. Louis Olympics 1904. Chicago, IL: Arcadia Pub. ISBN 0-7385-2329-1. OCLC 52447869. Archived from the original on March 14, 2022. Retrieved May 22, 2021.
  8. ^ a b c Cronin, Brian (August 10, 2010). "Sports Legend Revealed: A marathon runner nearly died". Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. Archived from the original on October 16, 2011. Retrieved August 31, 2010.
  9. ^ 1967: Creation of the IOC Medical Commission
  10. ^ a b 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.
  11. ^ Martin, David E.; Gynn, Roger W. H. (2000). The Olympic Marathon. Human Kinetics. p. 50. ISBN 9780880119696.


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