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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Run, Felix, Run!

This blog post originally appeared 1/3/2008.

In answering a question yesterday regarding how the marathon originated (a fascinating story in itself!), Elisabeth found this gem in Sports Firsts: A Fun and Fascinating Look at "Firsts" in Sports and the People Who Made Them Happen by Patrick Clark:

Cuba's first representative in the Olympic marathon was Felix Carajal, a Havana postman who had never before competed in a race. Carajal heard about the St. Louis Olympics in 1904 and decided that he would compete. Cuba did not plan to provide financial assistance for athletes who wanted to participate in the Olympics, so Carajal raised the money himself by running repeatedly around a square in Havana and begging for money.

After collecting enough money, Carajal set off for the Olympics. Unfortunately he lost all of his money in a card game in New Orleans, but, undaunted, he ran the 700 miles to St. Louis, living on handouts along the way. Carajal arrived just hours before the marathon was to begin, clad in heavy walking shoes, a long-sleeved shirt and long trousers. He cut his pants short and took off in the marathon. Despite laughter from the crowd, Carajal not only finished; he placed fourth.
I am not sure whether to be more impressed by the fact that he placed fourth or the fact that he ran 700 miles from New Orleans to St. Louis.

Clark, Patrick. Sports Firsts: A Fun and Fascinating Look at "Firsts" in Sports and the People Who Made Them Happen. Facts on File, 1981. p. 205.

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