The Albert Hall used for a Marathon Race. Dorando defeated.

 

From a report in ‘Cycling’ 22nd December 1909

 

            The scene at the Royal Albert Hall on Saturday evening last, (18 December 1909) on the occasion of the Marathon match between Dorando and Gardiner, was one of exceptional interest. The arena was laid with cocoa-nut matting, and around its outer edge was the track, marked out by means of whitened rope, affixed to small wooden stands, also painted white. Before the race started, there

were four humped-angular

boxes, one placed at each corner, the sloping side being intended as banking.    Gardiner's supporters, however, thought there was more danger in their use than in their absence, and Dorando’s brother readily consented to their removal, leaving the track quite flat.        The track was 20 laps to the mile, so that 524 laps and 33 yds. had to be covered to complete the Marathon distance of 26 miles 385 yds. Back in England, Dorando has trained at Stamford Bridge, and he certainly looked fit. He is the same unassuming happy lad as he was before the Olympic Marathon. He trained from the Villa Villa Restaurant Gerrard Street, Soho, under the watchful eyes and care of his brother and Signor S. P. Tettamanti.

            Although the race started at 8.20 p.m., the doors were opened at 7.15 p.m. and until the men came to the mark a concert was provided for the spectators. The band of the Civil Service Rifles played, and a giant gramophone gave selections of Caruso and other operatic favourites.

 

The Start.

 

            When the contestants came to the mark the hall was fairly full, the top gallery in particular having many hundreds of Gardiner's supporters. Mr. J. T. Hulls gave the word to go. Dorando wore the Italian colours, with his national flag on his vest, Gardiner sporting the colours of the Herne Hill Harriers, with a small Union Jack on the front of his hooped jersey. From the start the pace was record-breaking, the first mile being covered by Dorando in 4 min. 39 2/5 sec. There was nothing between the men until nearly 12 miles had been run. when Dorando, who had the lead, suddenly gave way to Gardiner, who passed on the inside and shot ahead. Dorando stopped, and it. was discovered that his feet were blistered and raw beyond recovery.

            By some extraordinary piece of bad judgement he had put on a pair of new running shoes, and. in consequence, had paid the penalty. He obtained another pair, and started after Gardiner whose advantage was two laps. But the plucky little Italian had lost his fire, and limped badly. The agony he was suffering was shown in his face, but physically he was as fresh as paint. He stopped again and rechanged his shoes, and Gardiner soon had a lead of 17 laps, which he increased to 21. Then Dorando made another heroic effort to get level and pegged Gardiner back a lap, leaving a mile to be made up. But it was beyond his powers. He was, to all intents and purposes, crippled.

            Gardiner's friends in the gallery were almost frantic at their champion’s success and were waving huge Union Jacks and singing to their hearts content, such ditties as ‘For he’s a jolly good fellow,’ and ‘Rule, Britannia.’ They were well satisfied, and Gardiner is no doubt an athlete of exceptional calibre, and he thoroughly deserved his well-won victory. Dorando finally retired with 23 miles l˝ laps to his credit, Gardiner winning in 2 hrs. 37 min. 2/5 sec., and receiving a tremendous ovation. The race was timed by Mr. E. A. Humphrey. The winner was fairly fresh, although he must have been footsore towards the end of the race. He was carried to his dressing room on the shoulders of his admirers.

            On Sunday we found, on inquiry, that Dorando was quite unable to put his feet to the ground. but was otherwise in splendid form. He stated that he only went on to keep faith with those who had paid to see the race. He leaves to-day (Wednesday) for San Francisco, where he will race against Haycs the official winner of the Olympic Marathon, returning in time to meet Gardiner in the return race, which will take place at Stamford Bridge track in April next.

 

© Exhibition Study Group 2010

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