Runners worldwide dream of winning marathons. Marathons have become one with the idea of self-improvement and challenging oneself to go beyond one’s established limits. Gathering countless crowds and participants worldwide, marathons are truly a phenomenon of sports and entertainment that showcase surprising feats.

Photo: David Levenson for Virgin Money London Marathon

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Back to the topic, below you’ll find some pretty crazy stuff that happened at the St. Louis 1904 Olympics.

The first place participant finished in a car… sort of

He had intended to drop out during the race and got a car back to the stadium to change clothes. However, when he heard the fanfare, he simply started jogging again and won. He was disqualified after being caught in the act and having admitted the deed.

The guy in the first place got carried across the finish line

His legs were twitching and his trainers refused to give him water. He had been using a combination of brandy and rat poison for the entire race in an attempt to enhance his running abilities. Doping wasn’t illegal during the 1904 Olympics, so he wasn’t disqualified and won the race.

A Cuban mailman finished in fourth place

You can imagine mailmen walking great distances daily, but you’d probably never imagine one running non-stop throughout his entire country. But he did, and he somehow landed in New Orleans where he lost all his money at a casino. A fellow competitor cut his long trousers at the knee to help him run the marathon and hopefully earn back some money.

He had a lot of chances of coming in the first place, but he took an hour-long nap on the side of the track after being sick from eating some rotten apples that he stumbled upon on the side of the race track. 

Unofficial South African competitors

Two students from South Africa happened to be in town during the marathon and thought to join in on the fun. They ran barefoot throughout the entire track. Also, they were the first Africans to ever compete in a modern Olympic event. And they finished in 9th and 12th place, respectively. Also noteworthy, no. 9 was chased a mile off course by angry dogs.

A death toll at a marathon?

Want an even more amazing fact about the 1904 St. Louis Olympic marathon? Half of the participants had never partaken in competitive running before, and it showed. Some of them nearly died during the race because of the dusty roads and the cars that further kicked up the dust into their lungs. It also didn’t help that there was only one water stop on the entire course.

From Mother Russia with… late

So, Russia was also supposed to send delegates to the event. However, they arrived a week later because they were still using the Julian calendar back then. Imagine how underwhelmed and disappointed the participants must’ve felt. It’s like that one guy that shows up late at the afterparty when most of the people are already drunk out of their mind or gone home.

Reality beats movies once again

Everything you’ve just read about is real. None of it is fiction, and you can look it up. If there’s one event that we want a movie based off of, it’s the marathon from the St. Louis Olympics in 1904. Just imagine how many tickets such a movie would sell. Actually, nevermind that. Just imagine the trailers and other promotional materials.

Send this to a movie producer, if you know one. We’d really like to see this event unfold on the big screen.