1908 Olympic Marathon

John Hayes of the USA winning the controversial 1908 Olympic Marathon
John Hayes of the USA winning the controversial 1908 Olympic Marathon; The 1908 marathon was the first to be run at the now standard distance of 26 miles and 385 yards, on a course designed by the Polytechnic Harriers’ Jack Andrew.

The Polytechnic Harriers organised the trial Olympic marathon which was reintroduced as an event in the modern Games. The race was run from Windsor Great Park to the Stadium and established the international distance of 26 miles and 385 yards, enabling the runners to finish in front of the Royal Box.

Jack Andrew, secretary of the Polytechnic Harriers, was Chief Clerk of the Course for the Olympic marathon race, and was involved in its dramatic conclusion. The first runner into the Stadium, Dorando Pietri of Italy, was badly dehydrated and collapsed just before the finish. Jack Andrew helped him to his feet so Pietri was eventually disqualified and the second runner, John Hayes of the USA, was declared the winner. Such was the popular support for Pietri that he was presented with a special cup by Queen Alexandra.

However the Polytechnic Harriers were naturally disappointed at their lack of success in the competition. In order to give British runners more practice at this distance, the annual Polytechnic marathon was started the following year and continued until 1996, being used as the official Olympic trial event for many years.

Downloads

Find out more in our poster on the 1908 Olympic Marathon (PDF 4.3MB).