THE ORIGINS OF THE MARATHON IN MEXICO

Juan Ruiz, Gustavo Ramírez & Juan Medrano, first three positions in the first marathon in Mexico on November 27, 1910 (El Tiempo Ilustrado, nº 49, December 4 1910)

Athletic competitions emerged in the United States in 1876 to commemorate the centennial of its independence. They were called Patriotic Games, and it is under this format, as Juegos Patrióticos o Patrios, that these athletic competitions were introduced by them in Mexico in 1892, to celebrate their 4th of July.

In Mexico, sports clubs would be responsible of spreading athletics. It was they who established a sports community, with facilities and organizational capacity for athletic meetings, or Field Days. It was in 1897 when they organized an athletic competition for the first time. Among the most influential clubs in the early days of Mexican athletics were the Reforma Athletic Club, founded in 1894, the YMCA (Young Men’s Christian Association), founded in 1902, and the Mexico Country Club, founded in 1907.

Mexicans found in the longer distance races a space in which to establish their hegemony and build a new social image of the Mexican as an athlete, although among its indigenous population, such as the Rarámuris, foot races were already part of their culture and traditions. The Juegos Patrios brought the races closer to the people. Its athletes began to excel in the longer distance events compared to the USA athletes, who used to prevail in the shorter events.

For the first marathon we should wait until 1910, when it was planned to organize an athletic event to commemorate the first centenary of National Independence. Among the events that were going to be organized, the runner Eligio Castañón suggested to include a marathon.

To see if participants would be suitable for this challenge, a 25-kilometer race was organized as a rehearsal, which turned out to be a success.

Thus, on Sunday, November 27, 1910, the first “official” marathon was held in Mexico City, over about 40 kilometres (42,195 meters had not yet been stipulated). Ten Mexican athletes participated, and the winner was Juan Ruiz, from Oaxaca, in 3h05m, who was accompanied on the podium by Gustavo Ramírez, from Xochimilco (3h30m), and Juan Medrano, from Guanajuato (3h36m). Only 5 participants managed to finish in a race where the winner was awarded a gold watch.

As a curiosity, the oldest marathon that is still celebrated in Mexico is the Rover Marathon, which has been run since 1954. Framed in the category of trail, its route departs south of Mexico City to finish at the Centenario Stadium, in the city of Cuernavaca, Morelos.

Regarding the Mexico City Marathon, its first edition was in 1983, taking the Boston and New York marathons as referencee. On September 25, 1983, 6,500 men and 500 women started at the Hermanos Rodríguez Autodrome, following a route that ended at the Monument to the Revolution. The winners were Casimiro Reyes in the men’s category (2.29.35) and María del Carmen Cárdenas (3.05.00).

Since then, many Mexican athletes have stood out at the international level in the Philipides event, but that is a different story.

 

Sources

Por la patria y por la raza. El surgimiento del atletismo y el primer maratón en la Ciudad de México (1892-1910). Miguel Ángel Esparza Ontiveros. Letras históricas no.21 Guadalajara sep. 2019  Epub 24-Abr-2020.

El Maratón de la Ciudad de México: un enfoque desde la Geografía Cultural. Proyecto de Tesis para obtener el título de Licenciado en Geografía. Bruno David Contreras Patiño. UNIVERSIDAD NACIONAL AUTÓNOMA DE MÉXICO

Juan Ruiz, arriving to finish area and receiving a gold watch as trophy (El Tiempo Ilustrado, nº 49, December 4 1910)

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