All Athletics Menu

1968 Olympic Games Ciudad de México, Mexico - Men's Marathon



Host City: Ciudad de México, Mexico Format: 42,195 metres (26 miles, 385 yards) point-to-point.
Date Started: October 20, 1968
Date Finished: October 20, 1968
(Competitors: 74; Countries: 41)
Venue(s): University Olympic Stadium, Ciudad de México
Overview by IAAF 1968_olympic_stadium.jpg 
Bikila and Wolde were the favourites, as they were considered least likely to be affected by the altitude, but Bikila had a leg injury and had to retire from the race after 17Km. The early leaders were Jürgen Busch (GDR) and Kenny Moore (USA). By 20Km (1:06:02) the leaders were Johnston and Gaston Roelants, the former steeplechaser, with Temu just behind them. In the next 5Km Temu moved into the lead (1:22:29), with Wolde eight seconds back, up from sixth, and Johnston now just over a minute behind the leader. Wolde was ahead by 30Km, and Temu cracked shortly after, eventually placing 19th. Kimihara was up to second, but by 40Km was 2½ minutes back, with the lead extending continually. Wolde ran out an easy winner, in the best Ethiopian tradition, with Kimihara increasing his lead over Ryan by eight seconds in the last two kilometres.
Summary by
The 1968 Olympic Games were held at Ciudad de México, which lies at an altitude of 2,240 metres, or 7,350 feet. The effect of high-altitude on athletic performance was known from previous competitions. In sprints and short-distance races, it produced record performances, but at distances, the thin air, with lesser oxygen content, impeded the athletes, and resulted in very slow competitions. No event in 1968 would be more affected by the altitude than the marathon.
The two-time defending champion, Abebe Bikila, was back and since he had grown up in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, at higher altitude than Mexico City, he should have been a favorite. But he was injured, having recently had an appendectomy and was running the race with a stress fracture. He would not finish. But his teammate, Mamo Wolde, had also grown up at that altitude and his track experience, which went back to the 1956 Melbourne Olympics, made him a formidable contender.
The race began at 3 PM on the final day of track & field competition, on a warm (23° C. 73° F.) and sunny day. The course was point-to-point, starting at the Plaza de la Constitución, known as the Zócala, and ending at the Stadio Olímpico. The pace was slow, the runners worried about the altitude, and thru 10 km., a large group of runners led the field. By 20 km. the lead was held by Belgium’s Gaston Roelants, 1964 gold medalist in the steeplechase, and Britain’s Tim Johnston, followed closely by four runners – Naftali Temu, who a week before had won the 10 km. on the track, Wolde, Jürgen Busch (GDR), and Turkey’s İsmail Akçay. Temu then pulled ahead by 25 km., but Mamo Wolde took the lead at 30 km. He eventually won by over three minutes from Japan’s Kenji Kimihara, making it three straight marathon gold medals for Ethiopia.
Marathon Men Final 20 October
Rank Mark Athlete Country NOC Age Records Notes
1 2-20.26.4 Mamo Wolde Ethiopia ETH 36
2 2-23.31.0 Kenji Kimihara Japan JPN 27
3 2-23.45.0 Mike Ryan New Zealand NZL 26
4 2-25.18.8 İsmail Akçay Turkey TUR 26
5 2-25.33.0 Bill Adcocks Great Britain GBR 26
6 2-27.16.8 Gabrou Merawi Ethiopia ETH 36
7 2-27.23.8 Derek Clayton Australia AUS 25
8 2-28.04.4 Tim Johnston Great Britain GBR 27
9 2-28.06.2 Akio Usami Japan JPN 25
10 2-28.40.2 Andy Boychuk Canada CAN 27
11 2-29.04.8 Gaston Roelants Belgium BEL 31
12 2-29.21.0 Pat McMahon Ireland IRL 26
13 2-29.48.8 Alfredo Peñaloza Mexico MEX 21
14 2-29.49.4 Kenny Moore United States USA 24
15 2-30.42.6 Jürgen Busch East Germany GDR 25
16 2-31.15.0 George Young United States USA 31
17 2-31.23.8 Manfred Steffny West Germany FRG 27
18 2-32.22.0 Thin Sumbwegam Myanmar MYA 38
19 2-32.36.0 Naftali Temu Kenya KEN 23
20 2-32.49.0 Maurice Peiren Belgium BEL 30
21 2-33.19.6 Antonio Ambu Italy ITA 32
22 2-33.53.0 Ron Daws United States USA 31
23 2-34.11.8 Karl-Heinz Sievers West Germany FRG 26
24 2-34.49.0 Gyula Tóth Hungary HUN 32
25 2-35.09.5 Hüseyin Aktaş Turkey TUR 27
26 2-35.47.8 Pablo Garrido Mexico MEX 30
27 2-37.42.0 Aad Steylen Netherlands NED 33
28 2-38.07.4 Anatoly Sukharkov Soviet Union URS 30
29 2-38.52.2 Lee Myeong-Jeong South Korea KOR 23
30 2-39.49.6 Ivaylo Sharankov Bulgaria BUL 34
31 2-39.58.2 Gioacchino De Palma Italy ITA 28
32 2-40.16.0 Josef Gwerder Switzerland SUI 29
33 2-41.29.0 Hubert Riesner West Germany FRG 22
34 2-42.24.6 Georg Olsen Denmark DEN 31
35 2-42.51.0 Douglas Zinkala Zambia ZAM 24
36 2-43.15.6 Ezequiel Baeza Chile CHI 24
37 2-43.36.6 Dave McKenzie New Zealand NZL 25
38 2-43.56.0 Kim Bong-Nae South Korea KOR 26
39 2-45.20.4 Carlos Cuque Guatemala GUA 22
40 2-45.26.8 Godwin Kalimbwe Zambia ZAM 22
41 2-48.13.6 Mick Molloy Ireland IRL 30
42 2-48.30.4 Nikola Simeonov Bulgaria BUL 28
43 2-50.16.8 John Farrington Australia AUS 26
44 2-50.58.2 Helmut Kunisch Switzerland SUI 31
45 2-52.28.0 Alifu Massaquoi Sierra Leone SLE 31
46 2-52.46.2 Lee Sang-Hun South Korea KOR 30
47 2-54.03.6 Hla Thein Myanmar MYA 24
48 2-55.17.0 Paul Mose Kenya KEN 19
49 2-56.19.4 Benjamin Silva-Netto Philippines PHI 29
50 2-57.01.4 Harry Prowell Guyana GUY 32
51 2-59.05.8 Wimalasena Perera Sri Lanka SRI 23
52 3-00.40.2 Fulgencio Hernández Guatemala GUA 27
53 3-03.07.0 Gustavo Gutiérrez Ecuador ECU 29
54 3-03.47.6 Martin Ande Nigeria NGR 20
55 3-04.53.8 Mustafa Musa Uganda UGA 21
56 3-06.16.0 Enoch Muemba Zambia ZAM 21
57 3-25.17.0 John Stephen Akhwari Tanzania TAN
AC DNF Jim Alder Great Britain GBR 28
AC DNF Mraljeb Ayed Mansoor Kuwait KUW
AC DNF Abebe Bikila Ethiopia ETH 36
AC DNF Jerome Drayton Canada CAN 23
AC DNF René Combes France FRA 31
AC DNF Nedo Farčić Yugoslavia YUG 27
AC DNF Edgar Friedli Switzerland SUI 34
AC DNF José García Mexico MEX 22
AC DNF Armando González Uruguay URU 28
AC DNF Lajos Mecser Hungary HUN 26
AC DNF József Sütő Hungary HUN 31
AC DNF Saoud Obaid Daifallah Kuwait KUW
AC DNF Carlos Pérez Spain ESP 33
AC DNF Pentti Rummakko Finland FIN 25
AC DNF Seiichiro Sasaki Japan JPN 23
AC DNF Mukhamed Shakirov Soviet Union URS 35
AC DNF Guy Texereau France FRA 33
AC DNF Rafael Pérez Costa Rica CRC 22


 If you read the article on the Tokyo marathon, you already know that Bikila will not succeed the feat of making an Olympic tripled in Mexico, yet it was initially the favorite as the years do not seem to have hold on him. However Bikila had to abandon the first marathon of his career in Zarautz, Basque Country, following a thigh injury. The injury, the greatest enemy of the marathon had just hit the athlete, and this is what will force him to end his career in Mexico.


 Mexico was a maligned choice because this city is at altitude, which will beat many records for short distances, but for endurance sports, that's another story, indeed the effect of altiotude with the oxygen depletion worried many athletes and provided many failures, especially among athletes with big muscles thus requires a lot of oxygen.

You should know that at that time the Australian Derek Clayton was the first athlete to run under 2:10, 'and he had a good chance of winning as well as the Belgian Gaston Roelants who fears nothing nobody.

The suspense about Abebe Bikila will last only a few kilometers, we quickly realize that Bikila had a kind of unusual claudication is not the same stride, stride that saw him victorious in Rome and Tokyo. At the 15th kilometer he is no longer in the lead group is amazement, he will forsake one or two kilometers away, because of a broken fibula that has upset his training and made ​​to suffer horribly. It was in an ambulance he will finish the last marathon of his career. He declared: "If this had been my first Olympic marathon, I would have made ​​the effort to keep But I already won twice and the pain was so strong that I could not go further other.. hand, Mamo Wolde was in the leading group and I felt he could succeed me.

In fact in mind we find the Belgian Roelants passing the 20th km in 1h06'02 ", eight minutes longer than the world record in the 20km he held, but do not forget that we are at altitude. Wolde 1m72 for 53kg, went cautiously like all those who finish decently. Kenyan Naftali Temu will in turn take over the race leader, who has already won the 10,000 meters on its Roelants suddenly leaden legs have derives in eighth place. that will not be the only one to experience a failure, in these particular criconstances, Derek Clayton already had his, then it was the turn of Temu, which then leave the first place to Wolde, who was 36 years. (it will end even third, at 40, the Munich Olympic marathon in 1972). Finally Wolde will come off and fly away to victory, finishing in 2h20'26 ", with three minutes ahead of the Japanese Kimihara. Long dedicated to supporting roles, it will mark the embarrassment when breaking the wire, then make two laps of honor exuberant, wildly applauded by the vast warm crowd, captivated by the unusual jump last American Dick Fosbury to 2m24, it has not first paid no attention. (The other highlight of these games will be the long jump with Bob Beamon).

Twelve years earlier, in Melbourne, Wolde finished eleventh and last in the first series of 1500mètres in 3'51 ". In games of Rome, it was thought wise to leave it at home. A clear progress in Tokyo, he had abandoned in the marathon but had come fourth in the 10,000 meters, an improved result in Mexico City where he finished second. third series of 5000m in 14'29 ", he preferred to give up the final to husband his strength, well caught him.

Much was expected of large failures, there were, but the most spectacular was that of the Tanzanian John Akhwari happened last in 3h25'17 ". Until the thirtieth kilometer, everything went fairly well for him. Suddenly he was tortured by cramps and shaken by spasms. two km later, he fell heavily to the ground and fairly seriously wounded in his right knee. His coach then made ​​two impressive bandages urging him to give up. Akhwari began over 60 min to go from the 30th to the 40th km, but he kept chugging along.

When he finally arrived at the stadium were only 7,000 spectators lingered among some 80,000 who had gathered in the same Wolde Fosbury and applause. He did not hear the ovation they gave him standing clapping their hands of all their soul fainted after crossing the finish line and was taken to a clinic where it took him two weeks to recover before to return to his place. When asked why he had shown so many insane stubbornness, he replied, "My country did not send me to 8000km for the start of the marathon, but to finish." Two years later it ranked 5th Commonwealth Games in 2h15'05 ". Aged 62, he was among the guests of honor at the Sydney Games in 2000.

Wolde, an end of life in prison

The end of life of Mamo Wolde will be very sad, a bit like that of Bikila struck by a car accident and ended his life in a wheelchair. Wolde will finish him in prison. Detained for nine years and sentenced on 18/02/2002 to six years in prison for "participating in summary executions", he was released the next day because it was 9 years old in 2002 he was imprisoned.
The Wolde captain, accused "of being involved in the execution" of a young Ethiopian, Samuel Alemu, during the period of the "Red Terror" in 1978, was sentenced to six years imprisonment by the Federal High Court . the High Court considered that the evidence produced by the special prosecutor corroborated the charges against the former medalist, but had requested the application of the sentence from the day of his arrest, which resulted since his release after some administrative formalities.
Wolde The captain, who joined his family was part of a group of defendants accused of "having planned and carried out" acts of "genocide and crimes against humanity" in a district of Addis Ababa.
The trial of the "Red Terror" (years 1977-1978), during which tens of thousands of young Ethiopians were killed or disappeared under Mengistu Haile Mariam Colonel (1974-1991), began in Addis Ababa in December 1994.
Colonel Mengistu, said the "red Negus", lives in exile in Zimbabwe, and is tried in absentia

Wolde will die a few months after his release, at the age of 71.






Real time web analytics, Heat map tracking

Olympic Games



All Events


Athletics in Olympic Games




You are here: Home Athletics Olympic Games (Athletics) 1968 Ciudad de México 1968 Olympic Games Ciudad de México, Mexico - Men's Marathon