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The ninth-place finisher, Len Tau, might have done better had he not been chased a mile off course by dogs.Then there was Felix Carbajalm, a five-foot-tall Cuban postman who’d raised money to attend the Games through events across Cuba, but then lost it all in a dice game and had to hitchhike to St. He arrived at the the start line in a pair of street shoes and trousers cut to look like shorts.

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Established as a tribute to an Ancient Greek legend, the Olympics made the marathon the global participatory sport it is today.

But perhaps the best story is of Shizo Kanakuri, one of the first Asians invited to take part in an Olympics—this one in Stockholm in 1912.

But the Japanese endured a horrid 18-day journey by ship and the Trans-Siberian railway to get to Sweden.

He, too, suffered the extreme physicality of the race and could only get by with his training staff feeding him the stimulant stychinine—also used in rat poison—as well as egg whites and brandy.

Hicks had to be carried across the finish line and treated immediately.To accommodate the queen, this was adjusted to start the race from Windsor Castle, and an extra 385 yards added to bring it to a finish exactly in front of the Royal Box.This arbitrary length was subsequently adopted as the marathon’s official 26.2-mile distance (paywall) and led to the tradition, still practiced by some today, of marathon runners shouting “God save the queen” as they reach the last mile.Until that time, the length was unfixed—the first marathon was only set up to recreate the Marathon-to-Athens route—and largely adapted to the terrain.The Brits devised a course running from Windsor to White City, approximately 26 miles.Despite being run in scorching 90°F (32°C) heat, there were only two places to get water, organizers wanting to “minimize fluid intake to test the limits and effects of purposeful dehydration, a common area of research at the time,” said the Smithsonian magazine.

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