The men's marathon at the 1904 Summer Olympics was a disaster. The first to arrive at the finish line was Fred Lorz, who had actually dropped out of the race after nine miles and hitched a ride back to the stadium in a car, waving at spectators and runners alike during the ride. When the car broke down at the 19th mile, Lorz re-entered the race and jogged across the finish line. After being hailed as the winner, he had his photograph taken with Alice Roosevelt, daughter of then-U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt, and was about to be awarded the gold medal when his subterfuge was revealed. Upon being confronted by officials, Lorz immediately admitted his deception, and despite his claims he was joking, the AAU responded by banning for a year. He later won the 1905 Boston Marathon.
Thomas Hicks ended up the winner of the event, although he was aided by measures that would not have been permitted in later years. Ten miles from the finish Hicks led the race by a mile and a half, but he had to be restrained from stopping and lying down by his trainers. From then until the end of the race, Hicks received several doses of strychnine (a common rat poison, which stimulates the nervous system in small doses) mixed with brandy. He continued to battle onwards, hallucinating, barely able to walk for most of the course. When he reached the stadium his support team carried him over the line, holding him in the air while he shuffled his feet as if still running. Hicks had to be carried off the track, and might have died in the stadium had he not been treated by several doctors. He lost eight pounds during the course of the marathon.
Another near-fatality during the event was William Garcia of the United States. He was found lying in the road along the marathon course with severe internal injuries caused by breathing the clouds of dust kicked up by the race officials' cars. Postman Andarín Carvajal joined the marathon, arriving at the last minute. After losing all of his money in New Orleans, Louisiana, he hitchhiked to St. Louis and had to run the event in street clothes that he cut around the legs to make them look like shorts. Not having eaten in 40 hours, he stopped off in an orchard en route to have a snack on some apples, which turned out to be rotten. The rotten apples caused him to have strong stomach cramps and to have to lie down and take a nap. Despite falling ill from the apples and taking a nap, he finished in fourth place.
The marathon included the first two black Africans to compete in the Olympics: two Tswana tribesmen named Len Tau and Jan Mashiani. Len Tau finished ninth and Mashiani came in twelfth. This was a disappointment, as many observers were sure Len Tau could have done better if he had not been chased nearly a mile off course by aggressive dogs.