This is a story I wrote my freshman year for English class. We were assigned to write about an event that happened before 1980. Jon Bois, one of my favorite writers and video-makers, had done a video about the 1904 Olympic marathon that I had recently watched, and I became really interested in the event. This story is inspired from his video, but I attempted to go deeper into the emotions of Thomas Hicks, a runner in the race. It's not my best work, although I've tried to refine it over the years, but here it is:
The Trial and Tribulation of Thomas Hicks Thomas Hicks stood at the starting line in Francis Field, waiting for a pistol shot and the race to begin. He had already begun sweating, the sweat beading like the perspiration on the can of a soda on a warm day. He could sense the weather not being right for this event, but he was in no position to stop it. He was here at the 1904 Olympic Marathon, the third of its kind. The first Olympics had been a huge success, bringing together many different athletes from all over the world. This Olympics was different. It was a backdrop for the 1904 St. Lewis World’s Fair, and a display of American superiority. Hicks was but a runner, a mouse in a maze. He was not an official that had any say on the outcome or planning of this race, just a pawn in an experiment. The pistol shot rang out, and Thomas Hicks began his starting lap around the stadium, which would soon lead him out into the countryside. He looked around at the people beside him, wondering what they were thinking about, whether they were as concerned about the heat as he was. Hicks felt silly, even almost crazy, about how much he was worrying about the heat. He had no choice but to dismiss it as his body warming up for the upcoming run. Hicks believed it was going to be a regular marathon, but he had no idea what he was in for. He was about to run more than twenty-four miles in over ninety degree weather on a series of steep hills and roads inches deep in dust. And to top that off, he would do it with only one water stop ten miles into the marathon. Hicks was about to embark upon the hardest course ever invented. He was running a good race, and thought he might even win. He was well over a quarter of the way through and he was feeling fine. His coaches were riding in their cars cheering him on, leaving a cloud of dust in Hicks’s wake. He was approaching the water stop when he began to feel it. It was a feeling deep inside, and all that he could do was dread. Hicks brushed it aside and began to drink from the well. He hadn’t felt thirsty before, but drinking from the well he began to realize how thirsty he actually was. He gulped down as much water as he could before being ushered back onto the track by his coaches. As he approached the fifteen mile mark he still had a very clear lead in the race. Hicks had done this by simply ignoring the heat and focusing on one step at a time in his run. This ignorance would now begin his undoing. Hicks was dehydrated, tired, and ready to collapse. “Water,” Hicks croaked. “I need water.” Hicks’s trainer was incredulous, “Water? You don’t need any water, all it will do is slow you down.” Hicks begged again, “Please, all I need is some water.” His trainer again responded. “Alright. Just keep running, I’ll get you something.” Hicks felt relief. He was ready to take a drink and rest. But when the bottle got to his lips, Hicks nearly spit it out. This wasn’t water. It tasted more like brandy, but was undercut with a bitter taste. Hicks begged his trainers for water, but they denied him. His trainers believed water would hinder performance. Using this twisted logic they began to pour water heated on the car radiator over his head. To an outsider it would appear as if they were taunting him, but ignorance can be crueler than evil. At the twenty mile mark Thomas Hicks was falling apart. He had a gray and soulless face, and his skin looked ashen. It seemed as if Thomas Hicks was at the lowest point any human could be, yet it could get worse. At this time another runner began to jog straight past him, looking bright, cheerful, and as if this marathon was but a Sunday walk. This runner brought Hicks to his knees. Thomas Hicks, who had suffered so much, would not be repaid for his effort. His trainers were as confused as he was. They began to talk amongst themselves whenever another person, perhaps the passer’s trainer, came up to the car and told them the situation. Thomas Hicks could not hear what was going on. However, he could see a surprised yet relieved look on his trainer’s faces. One jumped down from the car and approached him. “Don’t give up just yet, he’s already out of the race,” said the trainer. “He’s been riding on the cars.” “So does that mean I still have a chance?”, asked Hicks, still unsure of the situation. “It means you're still in the lead, come on and let’s get going,” answered one of his trainers. Hicks shook his head knowing this was a bad decision. He could not protest however. He looked back at his coaches and said, “Okay, let’s get going.” Hicks stood up and began to run yet again. Mustering all the strength he could gather, he began to find his stride. Hicks was only a few miles from the finish line, but the running, the dehydration, and the brandy had taken its toll. Hicks was losing his mind. He began to hallucinate. Hicks asked his trainers “How far am I? I can’t go much longer.” The trainer responded with “You’re only two miles out now, you should be there in almost no time at all.” This is not what Hicks heard. Hicks was in a crazed state; he believed he was still twenty miles from the finish. Hicks had entered the unknown. He was alone. Despite all that was against him, Hicks kept going. He kept pushing himself farther and farther on his marathon, and farther into the unknown. Arriving in Francis Field, ready to end the race, one laust taunt was delivered to Thomas Hicks. His medal was adorning the cheater who passed him. The trainers, even angrier than Hicks, began to scream to the officials. The trainers explained the situation, stating how the runner who passed Hicks was out of the race. Instead of denying this, the passer simply accepted this and claimed his acceptance of the medal was just a joke. Thomas Hicks had fought past all the obstacles placed before him and had won. He could not celebrate this victory, as he had to be escorted off the field and to a hospital to be treated for the injuries he had received running the marathon. Over the course of the past three and a half hours, Hicks had lost over eight pounds. Thomas Hicks gave this event his all, and it couldn't care less about him. He had nearly died so he could get a medal and be printed in a book of names rarely opened.