BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

28 October 2014

BBC Homepage

Local BBC Sites

Neighbouring Sites

Related BBC Sites


Contact Us

2012 Features

You are in: London > 2012 Olympic Games > 2012 Features > London salutes Marathon centenary

London salutes Marathon centenary

The 1908 Olympic race that established the modern Marathon distance has been re-run - by two runners dressed in the costume of the day...

Dorando Pietri in the 1908 Olympic Marathon

Dorando Pietri is helped over the line

It was both a race and an epic struggle of determination and dashed hopes that made headlines around the world.

On 24 July 1908, in front of the largest sporting crowd seen to date, two runners emerged ahead of the Marathon pack to duel their way to the gold medal.

As the race reached the finishing line in the Great Stadium at White City, the Italian, Dorando Pietri, collapsed five times in the final yards and was helped home, almost unconscious, by officials.

"The drama and the characters of 100 years ago guaranteed the distance a place in the hearts of runners and spectators everywhere..."

Race participant John Bryant

But Pietri's victory against the odds was short-lived. He was disqualified and Olympic gold was awarded instead to his great American rival, Johnny Hayes.

Now their epic confrontation has been re-enacted by two Marathon afficionados - one an author, the other a publisher.

John Bryant and Steve Seaton set out from Windsor Castle, the starting point of the 1908 race, and marked the Marathon centenary by dressing in costume as Dorando Pietri and Johnny Hayes.

John Bryant and Steve Seaton

They're off! Bryant and Seaton in action

They were accompanied by Hugh Jones, the only London-born winner of the London Marathon, in 1982, and guided around the course by former athlete Dave Bedford.

The runners had to cross two motorways in contrast to the dusty, country roads of 100 years ago, stopping off at several 'feeding stations' en route.

In 1908 these were public houses that supplied refreshments including Oxo, eau de Cologne and smelling salts and were staffed by nurses.

The original race was notable in another respect - it altered the Marathon distance from 24.85 miles to the 26.2 miles of the modern era, to allow for the finish at London's White City.

Johnny Hayes in the 1908 Olympic Marathon

Johnny Hayes was the eventual victor

This time around, the runners finished at what is today the headquarters of the BBC Media Centre in Wood Lane W12, where a memorial lists the 1908 Olympic medals table.

Saluting the occasion, Dave Bedford said, "This is where the distance of 26 miles and 385 yards was first run - here in London, on this day in 1908. London, and the world, should be proud..."

"This is an important moment in the history of the Marathon," added John Bryant. "The drama and the characters of 100 years ago guaranteed the distance a place in the hearts of runners and spectators everywhere."

The Marathon re-run took place on Thursday 24 July 2008. You can follow the route the runners took by referring to the map in the link below.

USEFUL LINKS:

last updated: 25/07/2008 at 15:40
created: 23/07/2008

You are in: London > 2012 Olympic Games > 2012 Features > London salutes Marathon centenary



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy