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14 Jul 1924
Paris 1924

Stenroos marks marathon comeback in style

Few events conjured as much excitement during the formative years of the modern Olympic Games as the marathon.

Its early years were laced with tragedy and drama; from the collapse of Italian Dorando Pietri within sight of the finish line in 1908, to the tragic death of the Portuguese runner Francisco Lazaro at the 1912 Games in Stockholm.

Pietri was disqualified after British officials to come to his aid, his flailing legs and unsteady gait becoming one of the iconic moments in the history of the summer Games.

Like many Olympic marathons that had gone on before it, the race at the 1924 Olympic Games in Paris was contested in searing heat.

Race organisers delayed the start time to allow the oppressive conditions to calm but by the time the 58-man field took to the starting line temperatures remained stubbornly high.

An array of improvised headgear and caps were on show as the field did all they could to calm the severity of the Parisian heat.

Refuelling stations were a far cry from those of the modern era, with pales of water available for competitors to refresh their faces and wet rags handed out to assuage the heat.

As with so many distance events of the era, it was a Finn who dominated the race.

While team-mate Paavo Nurmi was breaking all records on the track in Paris, Albin Stenroos, a 35-year-old from Vehmaa, was about to make his own mark on the sport's biggest stage.

Stenroos hadn't run a marathon for 15 years until he qualified for the Finnish team at the trials prior to the Games.

He had enjoyed Olympic medal success with a team cross country silver in Stockholm as well as a individual bronze in the 10,000m.

But few expected such an emphatic victory in the 1924 marathon.

He surged clear of the field and entered the Olympic stadium with an unbeatable lead of around six minutes.

With a casual doff of his cap he acknowledged the crowd's applause and gingerly completed the final lap before breaking the tape in 2 hours 41.22 minutes, almost six minutes clear of second-placed Italian Romeo Bertini.

In an indication of the toll that the fierce heat took on competitors, seventh-placed Boughera El Ouadi would win the Amsterdam marathon four years later in a time nine minutes quicker than the Finn's mark.

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