August 30th, 1904, 2:30 p.m., St. Louis, Missouri: The time and place for the marathon race of the Third Olympiad.
The day was sweltering, with temperatures rising past ninety degrees. The 34 runners weren't breathing the air that day; they were drinking it. As they took their places at the start line, they stretched and heaved with nervous anticipation, knowing that they would be forced to plod along dirt roads studded with rocks, and to surmount seven towering hills. The racers' brows dripped with perspiration before the race was even underway. Their sweat-drenched clothes clung to their bodies. At the crack of a gunshot, the contest commenced. It quickly degenerated into a debacle.
For some inane reason, someone thought it was a good idea to have horses precede the racers. Before long, competitors were choking on clouds of dirt and dust that were kicked up by their hooves. Wild dogs were also on the loose that day, and chased many of the runners off the course.
When all was said and done, over half of the field succumbed to the fumes, heat, and utterly ridiculous conditions. The man who survived the fastest was Thomas Hicks, at a time of 3:28:53. It remains the slowest winning time in an Olympic marathon ever.