From the August 2012 issue of Runner’s World
Sure, the Olympic marathon produces great champions – but also bizarrely weird moments. Here are four that still astound us
By Amby Burfoot
1904, ST. LOUIS: Grand Theft Auto
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. Hick’s handlers revived him with brandy, raw eggs and doses of strychnine. By 32 kilometres he had a substantial lead. Things got worse when he heard Lorz was on the road again and somehow back in the lead. Later it was learned that Lorz had hitched a ride after dropping out.
1960, ROME: Shoeless Wonder
No one had ever heard of 28-year-old Abebe Bikila before the race, and at the start the Ethiopian drew snickers: He wasn’t wearing shoes. Given that some of the final kilometres would be run over cobblestoned Appian Way, his approach seemed suicidal. Bikila shocked the world with his barefoot win in a world record time of 2:15:17.
1972, MUNICH: The Case of the Masquerading Marathoner
Racing in muggy conditions, Frank Shorter totally outclassed the field. He surged hard and early to build a late-race lead of more than two minutes. Shorter, 24 and born in Munich, looked forward to an appreciative greeting in the stadium. Instead, he was met by boos and angry whistling. Unbeknownst to him, a complete impostor had bolted onto the track a half lap ahead.
2004, ATHENS: Greek Tragedy
England’s Paula Radcliffe, 30, ranked among the most heavily favoured runners in Olympic history. But on this day something went terribly wrong. After fading to fourth, Radcliffe stopped briefly, started up again, and finally crumbled to the sidewalk, burying her head in her hands. “There was nothing in my legs,” she said. “I felt I’d let everyone else down, but no one was hurting inside as much as I was.”
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