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Tragic accidents shape the history of the marathon

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Tragic accidents shape the history of the marathon

The marathon and its athletes caused numerous dramas during and outside of the competition.

Kelvin Kiptum was only 24 years old – he died in a car accident in the Kenyan highlands.

Mustafa Yalcin / Anadolu / Getty

Why he? Why did the most talented person have to die? The bright future of 24-year-old Kelvin Kiptum, the most amazing marathon talent in history, ended in a car wreck next to a Kenyan highway.

The street was Kiptum’s career. In only his third marathon, the fleet-footed Kenyan ran a world record of 2:00:35 hours on the asphalt of Chicago in October. And in the spring he wanted to break the two-hour mark in Rotterdam.

Why he? Asenath Cheruto, his wife and the mother of their two children, said he had complained of exhaustion in recent days and canceled a Sunday outing. Kiptum ran and lived at over 2500 meters altitude and only came down to the family at 1600 meters one day a week.

Kiptum’s father Samson Cheruiyot has requested an inquest into the accidental death. He said a group of four unknown people had been hanging around Kiptum’s home for a whole week. Kiptum was also a hunted man, a new figure of light, suddenly swarmed by profiteers. The shoe model he wore for the world record was sold out within minutes.

Thomas Hicks had himself rubbed with brandy and triumphed despite being weak

According to legend, the first marathon in history was run by the runner Pheidippides. According to the historian Herodotus, he ran in 490 BC. BC from the Battlefield of Marathon to Athens in two days and set off after the exclamation “We have won!” (about the Persians) dead together. A macabre curse stretches from Pheidippides’ end to Kelvin Kiptum.

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In 2011, Samuel Wanjiru, the first Kenyan Olympic marathon champion three years earlier in Beijing, fell drunk from a balcony to his death after an argument with his wife. He was also burned early; like Kiptum, he was only 24 years old.

Sammy Wanjiru fell from the balcony during an argument and died.

Jamie Squire / Getty

Long-distance running was already popular before 1900 – as a subject of betting. The founder Baron Pierre de Coubertin spontaneously included the marathon in the program of the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896 after two test runs immediately before the big event. Anyone who wanted to could take part; The winners of the 100 m, 800 m and 1500 m races, a Hungarian and 13 Greeks, registered. The local winner Spyridon Louis was accompanied on the final lap of the stadium by two princes of the royal family. A woman, Stamata Revithi, tried in vain to take part – apparently she still ran the distance, but only the day after.

In 1904, a Cuban postman showed up in St. Louis, already quite emaciated. Félix Carvajal de Soto had squandered his hard-earned money in the ship’s casino and walked the 1,100 kilometers from New Orleans to the start of the marathon – he came fourth. The American Thomas Hicks was leading after half the distance, suffered a bout of weakness and fed himself with raw eggs seasoned with strychnine. After 32 kilometers he collapsed again, had his legs rubbed with brandy and swallowed the rest of the bottle.

In the meantime, the American Fred Lorz had taken the lead, sitting comfortably in a support car for 10 kilometers and already posing in a victorious mood with Alice Roosevelt, the daughter of the US President. The dizziness was revealed when the real winner arrived after ten minutes. Hicks!

The turbulent London marathon of 1908 was described by a reporter from the Daily Mail named Arthur Conan Doyle, who later became world famous as the author of the Sherlock Holmes crime novels. The main actor was the Italian Dorando Pietri, who was the first to enter the stadium, first in the wrong direction, turned around completely confused, fell several times and was guided across the finish line by helpers. He was subsequently disqualified.

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At the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles, the Swiss marathon runner Gaby Andersen-Schiess dragged herself to the finish line with the last of her strength.

Anonymous / Keystone

When women were finally allowed to compete in the marathon distance in Los Angeles in 1984, the Pietri drama was repeated. The audience was captivated not by the winner Joan Benoit, but by an unknown person in the lower ranks, the Swiss Gaby Andersen-Schiess. She had failed to drink enough water and was completely dehydrated as she staggered deliriously into the stadium. The frightening appearance lasted seven minutes as she swayed and shooed the helpers away. Was that admirably heroic or suicidal? She had a fever of 41 degrees, but after a few hours the doctors gave the all-clear.

Franziska Rochat-Moser, who won the New York Marathon in 1997, was considered the Swiss marathon figurehead. The lawyer was married to the three-star chef Philippe Rochat, was a hostess in the best restaurant in Switzerland and died in 2002 at the age of 36 after being caught in an avalanche. “Why her?” the country asked itself.

Abebe Bikila started barefoot in 1960 and won – he later had an accident and was left paralyzed

Abebe Bikila, the bodyguard of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie, boarded a plane for the first time in his life when he flew as a last-minute substitute to the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome. He only had his torn old running shoes with him, and in Rome the shoe brand rummaging tables had already been cleared out. So he started the marathon barefoot and won. Four years later he triumphed again in Tokyo, eleven days after an appendectomy, this time in shoes. The natural runner had an accident in his car in 1969 and was left paralyzed. He died in 1973 at just 41 years old.

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After winning the gold medal in the 5,000 and 10,000 meters in London in 1952, Emil Zatopek (1922–2000) also won the marathon, which he ran for the first time ever. After the Prague Spring, he was banished to a labor camp as a co-signatory of the 2000 Word Manifesto and was later rehabilitated. Zatopek came to the conclusion that Africans “run like birds fly”.

The doping-infested decades passed when a GDR runner like Waldemar Cierpinski won two Olympic gold medals (1976, 1980) or the Italian Gelindo Bordin in 1988, before Zatopek’s observation was verified: Africans from the highlands have the birth advantage that they , quite unromantic, produce better oxygen levels. Like the soon-to-be 40-year-old Kenyan Eliud Kipchoge, who dominated the marathon. Until Kiptum came and threatened to disenchant him.

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