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What: A depiction of Dorando Pietri finishing the 1908 Olympic Marathon in London
By: Alberto Salinas
When: July 24, 1908
Where: White City Stadium, London, W12
Why: Since the London marathon is being held today, I thought it might be interesting to have a look back at the first marathon to be run at the current distance of 42.195km (26.22 miles). This distance was chosen for the 1908 Summer Olympics, which were appropriately enough held in London. The reason why the distance is an odd number in both kilometers and miles has to do with the Royal Family wanting to get a better view of the start of the race. The race distance would fluctuate slightly over the next dozen years, finally being standardized at the 1908 Olympic distance in 1921.
The image above depicts Dorando Pietri, an Italian runner who entered White City Stadium first, but ran the wrong way and then collapsed several times. Officials eventually helped him to cross the finish line first, but he was disqualified because of the outside help. American runner Johnny Hayes who finished just after Pietri, ended up winning the gold medal. However, Queen Alexandra was so moved by Pietri’s performance that she awarded him a special (gold or silver) cup.