Sunday, August 03, 2008

100 Years of the Marathon Distance

I had the pleasure of being invited to bring Johnny Hayes' gold medal, which the Shore A.C. holds, to Carpi, Italy as part of the celebration of the 100th Anniversary of the Marathon Distance.
I arrived on early in the afternoon of Wednesday, July 22, in Carpi, a small city in the Emilia Romana region of Italy, and close to Modena. Those of you who are food fans likely recognize the names - Modena is famous for balsamic vinegar, and the local cheese is the legendary Parmagiano Reggiano, while the local wine is a light, sparkling, red Lambrusco. Needless to say, the food was excellent, as I've found it to be throughout Italy.
Shortly after arriving, I headed over to an Olympic athlete's event, and suddenly photographers were taking photos of me. It was only when they looked disappointed when I told them who I was that I found out they thought I was the representative from the London Marathon. I sat there and tried to look interested, but lacking a translator (she was with the London rep) and not speaking Italian, I was pretty much lost until they started the films of races. Good running is easy to watch in any language.
I'd passed under this banner as I walked into town. It identifies Thursday, July 24, 2008 as World Centennial Day. Of course, their marking of this anniversary bears an Italian flavor, so Dorando Pietri is featured.
That evening, there was a concert in the big square in town. It was a lot of fun, and I went back to the hotel exhausted, having slept only intermittently during my overnight flight.
The next morning, I had breakfast and headed over to the Duomo on Piazza Martiri, where they were celebrating a high mass in honor of Dorando. If you look at the left side of the photo, in the shadows, you can see the umbrellas of Bar Roma, a cafe, which was the sight of the bakery where Dorando worked before rising to fame as a runner.
Next on the agenda was the opening of an exhibit in Pio Castle dedicated to Dorando. This band played an introduction, then Nicola Okey of the London Marathon and I both said a few words before assisting with ribbon cutting.
We were then loaded onto buses and driven to a local park where one of the roads was named Via Maratona Olimpica Londra 1908 (Olympic Marathon of London 1908 Way). Nicola, as the London Marathon representative was also presented with a medal.
Next on the agenda was the dedication of the statue of Dorando, entitled "la vittoria e di Dorando" (The Victory of Dorando), and while Dorando did not win the Olympic gold, he certainly won many hearts with his struggle. The base of the statue is decorated with mosaics, on one side is Dorando's finish at London; on the other, modern racers. Pietri is wearing his trademark red shorts, perhaps he was a Rutgers fan.
Gelindo Bordin, the 1988 gold medalist in the marathon, holds Johnny Hayes' gold medal as 1960 200 meter gold medalist Livio Berruti and the Bishop of Carpi hold Dorando's Cup at the dedication of the statue to Dorando Pietri. RAI broadcast this event throughout Italy.
Following the Olympic Marathon, both Hayes and Dorando turned pro, and their first rematch was this race run through a haze of cigarette smoke at Madison Square Garden, which Dorando won. A string of other races followed, all at the 26 mile, 385 yard distance, making that distance the perceived "right" distance of a marathon.

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Blogger robison52 said...

Nice statue of Dorando, don't believe I have ever seen a statue with RED running shorts!!

Sounds like you had a fantastic time, wish I was there.

8/07/2008 4:34 AM  

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