Francisco Lázaro

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Francisco Lázaro
Francisco Lázaro.jpg
Personal information
Born(1891-01-21)21 January 1891
Lisbon, Portugal
Died15 July 1912(1912-07-15) (aged 21)
Stockholm, Sweden
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s)2:52:08 (1912)[1]

Francisco Lázaro (21 January 1891 – 15 July 1912)[2][3] was a Portuguese Olympic marathon runner and Portugal's standard-bearer in their first-ever participation at the Olympic Games, the 1912 Summer Olympics in Stockholm, Sweden.[4]

Like all the Olympic athletes of his time, Lázaro was an amateur sportsman, and his actual job was as a carpenter in an automobile factory in Lisbon.[4] Prior to the Olympics, he had won three national marathon championships in Portugal,[5] where he represented S.L. Benfica.[6]

Lázaro was the first athlete to die during a modern Olympic event, after collapsing at the 30-kilometer mark (19 miles) of the marathon with a body temperature of 41 °C. The cause of death was initially thought to be severe dehydration due to the high temperature registered at the time of the race. Later it was discovered that Lázaro had covered large portions of his body with suet to prevent sunburn and to help with speed and lightness while running; but eventually the wax restricted the athlete's natural perspiration, leading to a fatal body fluid electrolytic imbalance.[1] Before the race, he had supposedly said: "Either I win or I die."[4]

The following weekend, a memorial service for Lázaro was attended by 23,000 people at the Olympic Stadium. Approximately $US 3,800 was collected for his wife, and later a monument of Lázaro was placed at the marathon's turning point at Sollentuna, Stockholm.[1] His name was given to a street in Lisbon and to the home stadium of football club C.F. Benfica.[7] The novel The Piano Cemetery, by Portuguese novelist José Luís Peixoto, is based on Francisco Lázaro's story.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Francisco Lázaro.
  2. ^ "Francisco Lazaro, Portuguese runner: January 21 in History" at
  3. ^ "Francisco Lazaro, Portuguese marathon runner (Olympics), dies: July 15 in History" at
  4. ^ a b c Pires, Gustavo. "Francisco Lázaro, a emborcação no treino" (in Portuguese). Fórum Olímpico de Portugal. Archived from the original on 16 September 2008.
  5. ^ Rosen, Daniel M. (2008) Dope: a history of performance enhancement in sports from the nineteenth century to today. Praeguer Publishers, Westport, Connecticut.
  6. ^ "Comité Olímpico homenageia benfiquista Francisco Lázaro" [Olympic Committee pays homage to Benfica's Francisco Lázaro] (in Portuguese). S.L. Benfica. 14 July 2012. Archived from the original on 4 March 2016.
  7. ^ Francisco Lázaro.
  8. ^ Le Guin, Ursula. "The Piano Cemetery by José Luís Peixoto – review", The Guardian, 19 February 2011.