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Spyridon Louis was a 24-year-old Greek shepherd who became the hero of the 1896 Games when he won the 40,000m marathon race. This was the event the Greek hosts wanted to win more than any other due to its great historical significance.
Wearing shoes that had been donated by his fellow villagers, Louis set off from Marathon with 16 other runners. He took the lead four kilometres from the Panathenaic Stadium and, to the great joy of the 100,000 spectators in and around the stadium, won the race by more than seven minutes.
Forty years later, Louis recalled the moments after his victory: “That hour was something unimaginable and it still appears to me in my memory like a dream… Twigs and flowers were raining down on me. Everybody was calling out my name and throwing their hats in the air…”