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The First Winner Of The 1904 Olympic Marathon Used A Car, The Second Winner Used Drugs And Booze

Illustration for article titled The First Winner Of The 1904 Olympic Marathon Used A Car, The Second Winner Used Drugs And Booze

You know what the Olympic Marathon event is missing? Cars. Cars would really add that extra oomph to the event. This glaring omission hasn't always been the case, though: in 1904, a runner named Fred Lorz used one to ride about 11 miles of the marathon.

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Yep, about a century ago the Olympics was a lot more badass. But maybe not in a good way if you're one of those "sportsmanship" sticklers.

See, Lorz, the guy who finished the marathon first, had a race that went something like this: he ran nine miles, realized, damn, this blows, and stopped, from exhaustion. Then, his manager, who must have been following in his car, yelling "COME ON! RUN! GET UP, DAMMIT!" gave him a lift for the next eleven miles. Then, the car broke down, keeping up the pattern for the race Lorz had set. Lorz then must have figured what the hell, and finished the remaining five miles on foot, finally breaking through the finish line with a time of 3 hours and 13 minutes even.

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He was treated as the winner of the race, which he happily went along with, until a number of spectators helpfully reminded him that he, um, rode in a fucking car. Then he bravely told the assembled crowd and officials that he was only joking, see? Ha ha ha ha, get it? I cheated! It's funny because I cheated. (gives noogie to official) This guy, right! How about this guy? What a nut!

So, okay, Lorz is disqualified, and, for good measure, was banned for life by the Amateur Athletic Union. Later he apologized, and they let him back in, because who could stay mad at that face?

Illustration for article titled The First Winner Of The 1904 Olympic Marathon Used A Car, The Second Winner Used Drugs And Booze

The guy who came up to the finish line about 15 minutes later, Thomas Hicks, made a nice dramatic finish by collapsing and almost dying right when he crossed the line. This was only partially due to having run a marathon; it was also a likely result of the two doses of strychnine he was given. Strychnine, better known by its scientific name, rat freaking poison, was often used in that era for bursts of energy.

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Hicks was given the milligram of strychnine sulfate injection and, to wash it down, a big tall glass filled to the brim with brandy. Then they sent him back out into the incredible heat and dust to finish the race. His strength soon flagged agin, so they gave him another quick rat poison shot.

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In the wildly unlikely event that you don't think these guys had testes of weapons-grade adamantium, try a little experiment: wait for a nice hot day. Go outside. Run anywhere at all, then chug a big glass full of tepid brandy, and then head off to run anywhere else. If you can get more than 30 feet without vomiting copiously and lavishly down your chest, then congratulations, and try again after taking a pinch of rat poison (actually, don't do this, you'll maybe die).

Hicks made it to the finish, but just barely. He collapsed at the end, and another strychnine shot would have easily killed him. Wisely, he retired from running the next day, though I suspect it was really booze and poison that he needed a break from.

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Though by today's standards Hicks would be disqualified as well, the judges must have just wanted to get the damn thing over with before another runner came in chugging mercury, so Hicks got the gold.

Even though these techniques are no longer accepted in the modern Olympic Marathon, it sounds exciting enough that maybe a new event combining all these features, motorsports, alcohol, and poison is warranted. I'd watch that.

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(h/t to Telesle!)

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DISCUSSION

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I also heard that the guy that finished 4th took a nap in the middle of the race because he got sick from eating unripe apples, and another guy, who was the first African to ever compete in the Olympics, missed his shot at winning because he had to run a mile out of the way because he was being chased by a dog. The 1904 Olympic marathon is a cool story.

Also, the winner of the Tour de France that year was disqualified for going part of the way by train.

People just don't cheat like they used to.