How tough was 1904 Olympic marathon?

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The 1904 Olympic marathon in St. Louis was a disaster due to the grueling course, extreme heat, and lack of water stops. Winner Thomas Hicks was given strychnine and brandy, while other runners suffered injuries and illness.

The Olympic marathon, the centerpiece of the original games in ancient Greece, was a debacle when it was first run in America. At the 1904 Summer Games in St. Louis, the marathon was contested over 24.85 miles (40 km), less than the now-standard distance of 26.2 miles (42.2 km). Thirty-two runners from four countries (Greece, South Africa, Cuba and the United States) traversed a grueling, dusty course in 92C heat, with humidity exceeding 33%. And it certainly didn’t help that event organiser, James Sullivan, had included only one water stop – a roadside well – on the course, as he was curious to investigate the effects of “intentional dehydration” on runners. . No one died, but some runners got close. In the end, Thomas Hicks of the USA was declared the winner, despite him practically being carried to the finish line. The British-born marathon runner received several doses of strychnine (a rat poison that stimulates the nervous system in small doses) and egg whites during the last seven miles (90km). When his legs began to fail, Hicks’ trainers also gave him shots of brandy.

Bad course for gold:

After successfully crossing the finish line, the hallucinatory Hicks had to be treated by four doctors for an hour, just to stabilize him enough to leave the stadium.
William Garcia of California nearly died when he collapsed, from a hemorrhage. It was later determined that dust en route had coated Garcia’s esophagus and caused the lining of his stomach to rupture.
American runner Fred Lorz was initially proclaimed the winner, but Lorz had actually given up after only nine miles (14.5km). When the car that was taking him back to the stadium broke down, Lorz got out and ran the rest of the way.

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