To begin with, the 32-runner event got under way mid-afternoon on a sunny, 32-degree day. The course was hilly, there were only two water stops, and race officials drove cars alongside the marathoners, kicking up thick clouds of dust. The heat and conditions caused havoc among the runners – only 15 finished. American Fred Lorz was the early leader before dropping out after 14 kilometres.
Not long after, fellow Yank Thomas Hicks took the lead, but he, too, soon ran out of steam. Hicks’s handlers revived him with brandy, raw eggs, and doses of strychnine. By 32 kilometres he had a substantial lead, but was suffering badly. Things got worse when he heard Lorz was on the road again, running strongly, and somehow back in the lead.
Later it was learned that Lorz had hitched a ride after dropping out. When the car broke down, he ran the final few kays to the stadium, beating Hicks by 15 minutes. Lorz was about to accept the gold medal when he was confronted by officials who had seen him in the car.
He acknowledged the truth, and Hicks was awarded first place, with the slowest Olympic winning time ever – 3:28:53.
(Abebe Bikila was the first person to win an Olympic marathon barefoot. Read the story here.