Book: LA CARRERA DEL SIGLO (Jose Luis Munuera & Kid Toussaint, 2024, 96 pages)

I accidentally found a reference to this comic online, and I thought that, for an athletics fan, and more specifically the marathon distance, it was something that couldn’t be missed.

Presented by the Astiberri publishing house in a careful hardcover edition, it focuses on telling us about the 1904 St Louis Olympics marathon, an episode that we already presented on our blog (https://www.onekmore.com/en/2018/06/28/marathon-olympic-champions-iii-st-louis-1904-thomas-hicks-1876-1952/ ), as part of our series on the Olympic marathon champions.

It must be considered that sport at that time did not have the same media following as it does today, especially in those first editions of the Olympic Games, which had only restarted in Athens a few years before, in 1896. All this context is presented to us in detail in the first pages, where we can see how it was decided to organize the 1904 Olympic Games in St. Louis, to the detriment of Chicago, and make it coincide with the Universal Exhibition.

This celebration was seen by the organizing committee as an occasion to show the world the physical superiority of the United States, which had felt humiliated by the French in the previous Olympic event, in Paris 1900. And not only American superiority, but as we will see later, show the superiority of the white race over athletes from other ethnicities.

Focusing on the marathon, we are introduced to a small profile of those who will ultimately be the main protagonists of the event. We have the Cuban postman Félix “Andarín” Carvajal, the South Africans in continuous dispute Len Taunyane and Jan Mashiani, who went to St Louis to be “exhibited” as aborigines in an anthropological exhibition, the firting Frederick Lorz, or the one who ultimately would take his chance, Thomas Hicks. I only missed the Frenchman, although competing for the USA, Albert Corey.

In the following pages the comic shows us how the race goes. Without going into details that would ruin the reading, we witness how the marathon was conceived almost as an experiment, starting at the hottest time of the day, on the afternoon of August 30 with a temperature of 32°C, running through streets with traffic, and a unique liquid station to be able to study the effects of dehydration on the organism. All for the sake of spectacle. It seemed more a test of survival than an athletic demonstration, as evidenced by the fact that of 32 runners at the start, only 14 managed to cross the finish line.

We also witness the use, which today would be scandalous, of various stratagems and tricks of some of the runners with the aim of achieving victory.

For those who do not know the result of the race, we will not reveal everything here.

An essential comic for lovers of sports history, Olympics, or simply the marathon, which cannot be missing from their library.

Score: 5/5

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