An Italian pastry chef almost won the 1908 Olympic marathon.
Anyone who has struggled in the final few miles of a marathon should learn about the great marathon runner Dorando Pietri. At the 1908 Olympic Games in London, the Italian pastry chef had been leading up to the point that he got to the finish, which was at the Olympic stadium.
The problem for Pietri is that this marathon was longer than past marathons. For the first time, it was 26 miles, 385 yards.
As he made his way to the finish, Pietri collapsed. Concerned officials helped him up and it was thanks to their “outside assistance” that the Italian was later disqualified.
American Johnny Hayes was ultimately awarded the gold medal.
“Good Heavens, he has fainted; is it possible that even at this last moment the prize may slip through his fingers?” wrote famous author Arthur Conan Doyle, who had penned the Sherlock Holmes mysteries and was covering the race as a correspondent. “Every eye slides round to that dark archway. No second man has yet appeared. Then a sigh of relief goes up. I do not think in all that great assembly any man would have wished victory to be torn at the last instant from this plucky little Italian…”