By Ken Zurski
In 1904, Cuban postman and aspiring runner Felix Carvajal heard a marathon would be held that August at the Summer Olympic games in St. Louis.
Without a sponsor, he decided to make the trip alone.
It began poorly. After arriving by steamer in New Orleans, Carahjal lost all his travel money in a craps game. He hitchhiked or walked the rest of the way.
On race day, Carvajal went to the starting line with just the shirt on his back and long wool trousers that he cut off at the knee.
As colorful as it is skeptical, the rest of Carajval’s story continues during the race.
Tired and hungry from the long journey, Carajval reportedly took a brief nap and stopped for a snack at a nearby orchard. He resumed running, but soon cramped from eating rotten apples. Despite this, he did manage to complete the course.
Other runners weren’t so lucky.
It was brutally hot that day, the dirt roads were dry, and dust clouds from lead automobiles and horses choked the participants.
Out of 32 entrants, only 14 made it to the finish line.
The Cuban postman came in fourth.