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1896 Athens

1896 Olympic Games Athina, Greece - Men's Marathon



Host City: Athina, Greece Format: circa 40,000 metres (24.85 miles) point-to-point.
Date Started: April 10, 1896  
Date Finished: April 10, 1896  
(Competitors: 17; Countries: 5)  
    Venue(s): Panathenaic Stadium, Athina
Overview by IAAF   1896_olympic_stadium.jpg 
Albin Lermusiaux, bronze medallist in the 1500m, was the leader to 20Km, where he was caught by Edwin Flack, winner of the 800m/1500m. The runners then began a long uphill climb, and the dusty conditions began to take their toll, with seven of the 17 runners failing to finish. In sixth place, Louis took some wine (!) at the 23Km point, and noted to observers that he would be leading before long. Flack went ahead at 24Km, and he led to 32Km where Louis took over, and Lermusiaux collapsed. At 37Km, Louis increased the pace, and Flack could not cope, collapsing shortly after. Starting the race on a hot day at 14:00 did little to benefit the runners, but Louis had no difficulties, and to the joy of the King of Greece and the crowd, he entered the Panathenaic stadium seven minutes ahead of the others. His time was 20 minutes faster than his fifth place performance in the Greek trials race 17 days earlier, and he beat the Greek Champion Vasilakos by the biggest margin of victory ever in an Olympic marathon. Third-placer Spiridon Belokas (3:06:30) was disqualified for receiving a carriage ride, after a protest by Kellner, the only non-Greek to finish.
Summary by      
Prior to 1896, although distance running was popular as pedestrianism, a marathon-distance race had never been formally run. The origin of the modern marathon lies in the ancient legend of a Greek courier, normally seen as Pheidippides, but more likely actually Philippides. The primary source for the legend is the Greek historian Herodotus, who recorded the verbal history of men who had fought in the ancient battle of Marathon.
According to Herodotus, Philippides was sent to Sparta from Athens asking for help in the battle. After the battle, a runner, whose name was Pheidippides per Lucian and Eucles per Plutarch, was sent to Marathon from Athens to tell of the victory. Further details are sketchy, though modern legend has Pheidippides arriving in Athens to tell of victory in the battle with the words, "Rejoice, we conquer", and then dying from his effort. There is little ancient documentary evidence to support that part of the tale.
The modern marathon was suggested by the Frenchman, Michael Bréal, a friend of Baron Pierre de Coubertin, who accompanied Coubertin to Athens in planning the 1896 Olympics. Bréal wrote Coubertin thusly, )If the Organizing Committee of the Athens Olympics would be willing to revive the famous run of the Marathon soldier as part of the program of the Games, I would be glad to offer a prize for this new Marathon race.) The idea was immediately accepted.
The marathon race was held on 10 April 1896, starting in the village of Marathon, with the runners covering the dusty dirt roads to Athens, a distance of about 40 km. There were 17 starters, of whom 12 were Greek and 5 foreign. The race started at 1400 hours when Colonel Papadiamantopoulos fired the starter's pistol.
The leader for the first 20 km. was Albin Lermusiaux of France. At about this time, the heat, the uphill grade, and the dusty roads began to take their toll, and runners began to withdraw from the race. At the halfway mark, Greece's Spyridon Louis was in sixth place, trailing Lermusiaux, Teddy Flack (AUS), Arthur Blake (USA), Gyula Kellner (HUN), and the leading Greek, Georgios Lavrentis. Blake dropped out at 23 km. and the Greek favorite, Kharilaos Vasilakos, moved into third place.
Shortly thereafter, Lermusiaux tired and Flack took the lead. Lermusiaux would eventually retire at 32 km. At 32 km. Louis caught Flack and they ran together for about five km. Louis finally dropped Flack near the village of Ambelokipi, and Flack dropped out on the outskirts of Athens.
At this time, various couriers who had negotiated the course on bicycles and horses entered the Panathenaic Stadium and informed the crowd of Louis' approach, announcing, "Hellene, Hellene!" (A Greek, a Greek!) Louis then entered the stadium, and Crown Prince Nicholas and Prince Georgios accompanied him on his last circuit. He finished and won in 2 hours, 58 minutes and 50 seconds. Vasilakos was 2nd in 3-06:03, trailed by Kellner in 3-09:35. Greece's Spyridon Belokas was the original third-place finisher in 3-06:30 but, following a Hungarian protest, he was disqualified when it was found he had taken a carriage for a short part of the race. Ten runners finished, nine Greeks (including Belokas), and Kellner.



The men's marathon event was a special race invented as part of the Athletics at the 1896 Summer Olympics programme. Michel Bréal originated the idea of a race from the city of Marathon to Athens, taking inspiration from the legend of Pheidippides. The first such marathon race was a Greek national competition that served as a qualifier for the Olympic marathon; the qualifier was won by Kharilaos Vasilakos. The length of the marathon in 1896 was 40 kilometres (25 mi).

Twenty-five athletes traveled to Marathon for the race from there to Athens, though only seventeen actually began the race. Just as in the 1500 metre race, Albin Lermusiaux took the lead early. Edwin Flack and Arthur Blake maintained the second and third places until Blake dropped out at 23 kilometres. At 32 kilometres, Lermusiaux dropped out as well, leaving Flack in the lead. That lead was not secure, however, as Spyridon Louis was making full use of his endurance to gain slowly on Flack.

Exhausted from trying to maintain his pace, Flack dropped out of the race with about three kilometres left. Louis was left alone at the front, finishing the 40 kilometre race in slightly less than 3 hours. Vasilakos finished second, followed closely by Spyridon Belokas and Gyula Kellner. Kellner lodged a protest stating that Belokas had covered part of the course by carriage; the protest was upheld, and Belokas was disqualified.

Marathon Men     Final 10 April        
Rank Mark     Athlete Country NOC Age Records Notes
1 2-58.50     Spyros Louis Greece GRE 23    
2 3-06.03     Kharilaos Vasilakos Greece GRE      
3 3-06.35     Gyula Kellner Hungary HUN 24    
4       Ioannis Vrettos Greece GRE      
5       Eleftherios Papasymeon Greece GRE      
6       Dimitrios Deligiannis Greece GRE      
7       Evangelos Gerakaris Greece GRE      
8       Stamatios Masouris Greece GRE      
9       Sokratis Lagoudakis Greece GRE      
AC DNF     Teddy Flack Australia AUS 22    (37 km)
AC DNF     Albin Lermusiaux France FRA 21    (32 km)
AC DNF     Georgios Lavrentis Greece GRE      (24 km)
AC DNF     Georgios Grigoriou Greece GRE      (24 km)
AC DNF     Arthur C. Blake United States USA 24    (23 km)
AC DNF     Ilias Kafetzis Greece GRE      (9 km)
AC DNF     Dimitrios Khristopoulos Greece GRE      
AC DQ     Spyridon Belokas Greece GRE     [3-06.30]


Spyridon Louis
Spyridon Louis 1896.jpg
Personal information
Born 12 January 1873
Marousi, Greece
Died 26 March 1940 (aged 67)
Marousi, Greece
Sport Athletics
Event(s) Marathon
Achievements and titles
Personal best(s) 2:58:50 (1896)[1]
Charilaos Vasilakos
Charilaos Vasilakos in the middle,
marathon runners, 1896

Charilaos Vasilakos (Greek: Χαρίλαος Βασιλάκος, 1875 – 1 December 1964) was a Greek athlete and the first man to win a marathon race. He also won a silver medal at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens.

Vasilakos was born in Piraeus, Greece.

On March 22, 1896 Greece held the first modern Panhellenic Games. The main purpose of the games was to help the country formulate the team that would compete in the first Modern Olympic Games later the same year. All participants were members of Greek sports clubs. Vasilakos was raised in a mountainous village in the Mani peninsula and already had a reputation as a strong long-distance runner. He won the marathon race with a time of 3 hours and 18 minutes.

Vasilakos was one of seventeen athletes to start the Olympic race on April 10, 1896. He finished in second place, behind Spiridon Louis, with a time of 3:06.03 as one of only nine finishers. Both races were on 40 kilometre courses rather than the now-standard 42.195 kilometres.[8]

Vasilakos studied law and went on to become a customs director in the ministry of finance. He had a reputation for honesty and integrity. He died in Athens in 1964.

 Gyula Kellner
Olympic medal record
Men's athletics
Competitor for Hungary
Bronze medal – third place 1896 Athens Marathon
The native form of this personal name is Kellner Gyula. This article uses the Western name order.

Gyula Kellner (April 11, 1871 – July 28, 1940) was a Hungarian athlete. He competed at the 1896 Summer Olympics in Athens.

Kellner was one of 17 athletes to start the marathon race (the first modern Olympic marathon). He finished in fourth place, but when the third-place finisher, Spiridon Belokas, was found to have covered a portion of the race by carriage, Kellner was awarded third place. His time was 3:06.35.


Spyridon Louis

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Spiridon "Spyros" Louis (Greek: Σπυρίδων "Σπύρος" Λούης, sometimes transliterated Loues; 12 January 1873 – 26 March 1940) was a Greek water-carrier who won the first modern-day Olympic marathon at the 1896 Summer Olympics, thereby becoming a national hero.

Louis was born in the town of Marousi, which is now a suburb to the north of Athens, into a poor family. Louis's father sold mineral water in Athens, at the time lacking a central water supply, and his son helped him by transporting it.


After the decision to revive the Olympic Games in 1894, preparations were made to organise the first modern Olympics in Athens. One of the races would be the marathon, an event which had never been held before. It had been suggested by Frenchman Michel Bréal, who was inspired by the legend of the messenger Phidippides, who had run from the town of Marathon to Athens to announce the Athenian victory in the Battle of Marathon.

The Greeks were very enthusiastic about this new event and decided to stage qualifying races for would-be Greek participants. These were organised by an army colonel, Papadiamantopoulos, who had been Louis' commanding officer during his military service (1893–1895). The first qualifying race—the first ever marathon race—was held on 22 March, and was won by Charilaos Vasilakos in 3 hours, 18 minutes. Louis participated in the second qualifying race, two weeks later. Papadiamantopoulos, who knew Louis' running talents, had convinced him to try out. Louis crossed the line in fifth place, behind winner Dimitrios Deligiannis.

The Olympic marathon was run on 10 April (or 29 March by the Julian Calendar then in use in Greece). The Greek public had been very enthusiastic about the Games, but was disappointed in the fact that no track and field event had yet been won by a Greek competitor. The victory in the discus throw, a classical Greek event, by the American Robert Garrett had been particularly painful. Because of its close connection with Greek history, the public desperately yearned for the marathon to be won by one of their countrymen.

The marathon race

In marathon, Colonel Papadiamantopoulos gave the starting signal for the small field, consisting of thirteen athletes from Greece and four from other nations. The early leader of the race, which led over dusty dirt roads along which throngs of Greeks had gathered to watch, was the Frenchman Albin Lermusiaux, who had earlier placed third in the 1500 metres. In the town of Pikermi, Louis made a stop at a local inn to drink a glass of wine. (Louis' grandson, also Spiridon Louis, said that this is incorrect; that his grandfather's girlfriend gave him half an orange and shortly afterwards he "got a glass of cognac from his future father in law."[2]) After asking for the advantage of the other runners, he confidently declared he would overtake them all before the end.

After 32 km, Lermusiaux was exhausted and abandoned the race. The lead was taken over by Edwin Flack, an Australian who won the 800 and 1500 m races. Louis slowly closed in on Flack. The Australian, not used to running long distances, collapsed a few kilometers onwards, giving Louis the lead.

In the stadium, the atmosphere was tense, especially after a cyclist brought the news that the Australian was in the lead. But another messenger was sent out by the police as soon as Louis moved into the lead, and as the word spread that it was a Greek that led the race, the cry "Hellene, Hellene!" was taken up by thousands of rapturous spectators. When Louis finally arrived in a stadium erupting with joy, two Greek princes – Crown Prince Constantine and Prince George – rushed to meet him and accompanied him on his final lap for a finishing time of 2:58:50. Louis's victory set off wild celebrations, as described in the official report of the Games:

Here the Olympic Victor was received with full honour; the King rose from his seat and congratulated him most warmly on his success. Some of the King’s aides-de-camp, and several members of the Committee went so far as to kiss and embrace the victor, who finally was carried in triumph to the retiring room under the vaulted entrance. The scene witnessed then inside the Stadion cannot be easily described, and even foreigners were carried away by the general enthusiasm.

Reportedly, the king offered Louis any gift he would care to ask of him, and all Louis could think of was a donkey-drawn carriage to help him in his water-carrying business.

Adding to the celebrations, two more Greek runners entered the stadium to finish in second and third place. Third place finisher Spiridon Belokas was later found to have covered part of the course by carriage and was disqualified; his place was taken by the Hungarian Gyula Kellner.

After his victory, Louis received gifts from many countrymen, ranging from jewelry to a lifelong free shave at the barber shop. It is unknown if Louis took all these gifts, although he did take back home the carriage he had asked of the king. He retreated to his hometown, never again competing in running. He lived a quiet life, working as a farmer, and later as a local police officer.

Forty years after his marathon gold, four years before his death, Louis recalled the moments after his victory: "That hour was something unimaginable and it still appears to me in my memory like a dream … Twigs and flowers were raining down on me. Everybody was calling out my name and throwing their hats in the air …"[3]

After the Olympics

Spyridon Louis with Crown Prince (later king) Paul of Greece in Berlin, during the 1936 Summer Olympics.

In 1926, Louis was arrested on charges of falsifying military documents and was imprisoned. After spending more than a year in jail, he was found not guilty, and was acquitted. The affair predictably caused a press uproar.[1]

His last public appearance came in 1936, when he was invited to be a guest of honour by the organizers of the 1936 Summer Olympics, held in Berlin. After bearing the standard of the Greek team during the opening ceremonies, he was received by Adolf Hitler and offered him an olive branch from Olympia, the birthplace of the Olympic Games, as a symbol of peace.

Several months before the Italian invasion of Greece, Louis died. Many sports clubs in Greece and abroad still carry his name, as does the main stadium at the Athens Olympic Sports Complex, where the 2004 Summer Olympics were held, as well as the road passing outside (Spiros Louis Avenue).

The Jayne Mansfield movie It Happened in Athens is a heavily-fictionalized take on Louis and the marathon. The expression in Greek: "yinomai Louis" (γίνομαι Λούης), translated as "to becοme Louis," means "tο disappear by running fast."[4]

In 2012, a new pair of Vibram FiveFingers called the Spyridon LS was launched in honor of Louis.[5]

Breal's Silver Cup

The silver cup given to Louis at the first modern Olympic Games staged in Athens in 1896, was sold for 541,250 pounds ($860,000) in London on 18 April 2012, breaking the auction record for Olympic memorabilia. Breal's Silver Cup stands just six inches tall and was offered for sale at Christie's by the grandson of the victor.

Christie's called the auction "heated" and involved six bidders. The auctioneer later confirmed the buyer as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, which plans to build a major cultural center in Athens, where the Olympic cup will go on display from 2015. Meanwhile, it is displayed at the Athens' Acropolis Museum. The item was sold on the day Britain marked the 100 days' countdown to the 2012 London Olympics.[6]



More Details by Marathoninfo
1896 ATHENS: The legend Spiridon
Friday, April 10, 1896 at 14 hours Spiridon Louys (Greece - photo) 23 years 17 including 5 countries 7 (41.17%)
The course was 40km marathon in Athens, he ran under a sunny weather, the course was quite difficult at the end.
In this April 10, 1896, they are 17 on the starting line, among them mainly Greeks and four foreigners whose Hungarian Gyula Kellner is the only one who traveled 40 kilometers in 3 hours test, others relying on their qualities physical, their will and their good fortune at a time when specialization in one test was not developed and where the training techniques were not those of now .. Seven candidates to the test would have slipped away during the night aware of the risks of exposure they might the next day and frightened by the evil legend of the famous ancient soldier died bringing the news of the Greek victory at the battle of marathon in 490 BC. Indeed the course of the first Olympic marathon ran from Marathon to Athens to arrive and then was only 40km.

The marathon was the main event of these games, especially as the Greek many were betting on a victory of their compatriot, having been disappointed at Stadia, especially when launched from the disk where they failed. Also at 10 am the crowd begins to fill the stadium of Athens. To stimulate the enthusiasm of Greek competitors gift pledges had increased. The rich merchant Georges Averoff promised one million drachma from the hand of his daughter to the Greek would be the winner, Dr A Teoflaxos had offered wine barrels vintage, barber shave offered gratis to the end of his days the savior of national honor, a chocolate chocolate offered 1000kg, a baker of bread for life and hundreds of other people what they had most precious, starting with their tools ...

The race:

14 hours, off they went surrounded by a swarm of officers on horseback and cyclists, and followed by a carriage carrying doctors and medicines. The first 10 kilometers they will remain grouped fearfully, passing women who sign peeking. The men offer them wine as a comfort, which will not help heat issues as we shall see. From there the race will settle and it is the Lermusiaux French is the most reckless, beating the Australian Flack and American Blake. The double victory on 800m and 1500m Flack makes him say the other competitors in the marathon, "they all scared of me !!". Spiridon Louys Greek happening with several minutes late, Allerte by farmers for the delay he then replied: "Do not worry I'll catch them and fight them all !!.". However the front Lermusiaux made ​​a good impression to the point that Karvati village where we prepared a triumphal arch, he receives on his head an olive topped off prematurely which grants him the victory. For behold, the road climbs, shortly after the thirtieth kilometer it stops and fellow Alphonse Grisel, following the bicycle, passes ointment on the legs. Soon, he leaves but its rhythm is broken, tormented by cramps muscles, and Flack exceeds inexorably, then it was the turn of Louys which becomes second.

Louys looks great, it catches up with the Australian, the 33th to the 36th kilometer, Flack holding less than 20 meter from the Greek, to achieve the release Louys sprinter will briefly is as Flack began to wobble dangerously before to rejoin Lermusiaux in the horizontal position. There are less than 4km and Louys greatly surpassing compatriot Vassiliakov and Hungarian Kellner.

Spiridon Louys, a shepherd?

23 years old, 1m60 high, legend has it that he heard about the games pasturing his flock of sheep in the countryside surrounding Athens, and he is prepared mystically by fasting and prayer. In truth it is not clear whether Spiridon Louys spent most of his time to follow a flock of sheep or running paths to carry letters. A third version claims it was the water carrier and he prepared his current victory since his youth behind a donkey led by his father. Still, during his military service, Spiridon Louys, fifth child of a poor family that also numerous, have served in the First Infantry Greek regiment under the command of Colonel Papadiamantopoulos by showing great endurance in walking exercises. the city of Athens has been chosen to host the first Olympic games, this colonel, who belonged to the organizing committee, have persuaded Louys to take part in the marathon.

Liberating success for the Greek people

According to some accounts, the crowd broke the barriers and invaded the stage. doves were dropped. The two princes escorted the winner, yet packed with fatigue, as he made ​​his lap. King George would have hugged him. No matter the authenticity of it all, the main holding in fact a Greek and had won the Olympic marathon had been a huge success. a success that nothing could start and that was probably a lot in maintaining the test program following games saw the dramatic number of competitors fell along the 40 km route and the scandal caused by a 3rd arrived Greek but was downgraded following protests from the Hungarian Kellner because Vélokas had been carrying on a cart a good part of the course.

Spiridon Louys it became the subject of a true reverence and a cause for celebration, Athens was hot and bands scoured the city, fireworks burst, a real delirium. It is not known if Louys could enjoy all the gifts that were promised before or after the race. A statue was erected to him in the Panathenaic Stadium and he never ran more, can no longer be considered amateur, say the gossips, as he received gifts. It is tracked him down 40 years later, guest games in Berlin, he marched at the head of the Greek colony, carrying the national flag, after taking part in the Olympic torch relay, he went even low head until the official forum to submit to Hitler, who congratula the (photo), an olive plan. His death will occur March 25, 1940 following a heart attack. His funeral, celebrated in the presence of several thousand people, were supported by the state. The legend was running for a long time, forever ...


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