The first ever marathon – in tweets

As the runners get ready for today's endurance race, David Randall gives us a modern take on 1896

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The Independent Online

Day Four

Thursday 8 April 1896

Great excitement in Athens ahead of tomorrow's marathon. Shops offering home entrants a lifetime's supply of goods if they win.

Breaking Rumour sweeping Athens that a wealthy young woman has offered herself in marriage to any Greek who wins marathon.

Athens, 7pm Convoy of carriages now taking competitors and support teams to start of tomorrow's race in village of Marathon.

Day Five

Friday 9 April 1896

Since first light, huge crowds have been lining route of final stages of the marathon.

1.30pm Hours ahead of marathon climax, so many people have swarmed towards stadium Athens city centre reported almost empty.

Record 71,800 tickets sold for the stadium today. All Greece praying for home victory in marathon.

Most observers here say Greeks face disappointment. Marathon likely to be won by Edwin Flack, 800m and 1500m double champion.

Village of Marathon, noon Milk was served to runners mid-morning. Now organisers giving them two beers each.

Officials say medical wagons and doctors will follow marathon runners, and each entrant will be accompanied by two soldiers on horseback.

17 entrants in marathon – 13 Greeks plus Gyula Kellner of Hungary, Flack of Australia, Arthur Blake of USA, and Albin Lermusiaux of France.

Marathon, 1.30pm Runners starting to assemble at start. Some wear caps, some shirts, some singlets.

Marathon, 1.55pm Starter, Major-General Papadiamantopoulos, mounts horse and gives runners description of 42k course.

Breaking Starter fires gun three minutes before 2pm. Marathon runners are off.

Lermusiaux into immediate lead, followed by Flack, Blake, group of four Greeks, and then Kellner.

2.25pm Reports from marathon course say Lermusiaux has extended his lead. Now nearly out of sight of pursuers.

Breaking Athens, 2.30 – Tom Burke of USA wins final of 100m in 12sec. German Fritz Hofmann second, Hungary's Alajos Szokolyi third.

No further reports from marathon. High jump now in progress.

All high jumpers except Ellery Clark and James Connolly, both of the USA, eliminated. Both clear at 1.76m using the new "scissors" technique.

Latest from marathon just in: at 15k mark Lermusiaux three kilometres ahead of Blake, Flack, and Kellner. Then leading Greek, Ioannis Lavrentis.

Breaking Clark adds high jump to his long-jump title with leap of 1.81m.

Number of Greek runners reported to have dropped out of marathon. Long climb after town of Pikermi starting to take its toll.

Just in American Blake drops out of marathon at 23k mark. Has collapsed and is reported to be in medical wagon.

Marathon latest Kellner and Lavrentis slow right down, Charilaos Vasilakos passes them to move into third.

Marathon race Three more Greeks – Spiridon Velocas, Demetrios Deyannis and Spiridon Louis – overtake Kellner.

Athens Back in the stadium, only two of the six qualifiers come to the line for 110m hurdles final.

USA's Thomas Curtis wins 110m hurdles from Britain's Grantley Goulding by a whisker in 17.6sec

Halfway stage in marathon: reports from course say Flack is gaining on Lermusiaux. Gap less than a minute.

Two Greek runners, Vasilakos and Louis, six minutes behind Flack but reportedly looking strong.

Breaking France's Lermusiaux has pulled up at the 32k mark.

Lermusiaux reported to have restarted, but now well behind leaders. Struggling.

Only 10k to go in marathon for leader Flack. Behind him, Louis said to have passed Vasilakos to be leading Greek.

Louis has overtaken Kellner and Lermusiaux. Frenchman now staggering all over the road.

Pole vault now starting. As it does, cyclist appears in the stadium with news that Flack of Australia is leading the marathon.

News spreads that Flack is leading marathon. A great silence descends on crowd.

Vaulting goes on and event is now a contest between the two Americans: William Hoyt of Harvard and Albert Taylor of Princeton.

Latest from marathon Louis of Greece pulls level with Flack at the 34k mark.

Flack begins to wobble. Looks dizzy. He's stopping. Flack is stopping! Louis now in lead and approaching Athens.

Hoyt and Taylor still slugging it out in the pole vault. Nothing to separate them yet.

Soldier on horseback rides into stadium and approaches king with message. Crowd near royal box start cheering.

Breaking News of Louis's lead in marathon spreads in stadium. Crowd going wild and crying: "Hellene! Hellene!" ("A Greek! A Greek!")

So much commotion in stadium that Hoyt and Taylor put down poles and stop vaulting.

Crowd on hill outside stadium now cheering wildly. Everyone inside standing trying to get view of runners' entrance.

Breaking Dust-covered figure in the blue and white of Greece runs into stadium. Great roar goes up.

Pandemonium in stadium as Louis runs the final 500 metres of 42k. White doves released. Hats in air. Deafening cheers.

Breaking Louis, a shepherd from Marousi, wins marathon and is first Greek athletic champion for 1,500 years.

Louis swept on to shoulders of officials and crowd and borne triumphantly from the field. His time, incidentally, was 2hr 58min 50sec.

Vasilakos comes in second, seven minutes behind Louis, with Velocas third. Kellner is fourth.

Hoyt wins resumed pole vault with clearance at 10ft 9.75in, three inches better than Taylor.

Day Six

Saturday 10 April 1896

Athens has gone Spiridon Louis mad. Shops and cafes named for him, pictures of him in windows.

Many wild reports about Louis. One says he is rich farmer who ran race to convince father of sweetheart that he was suitable son-in-law.

Breaking Reliable sources say that Louis is son of a smallholder, and is already married.

Louis showered with offers of money. Baron Pierre de Coubertin says one wealthy Greek had to be dissuaded from giving him 10,000 francs.

Postscript Louis resisted all offers and gifts, returned to village and lived in obscurity as smallholder, postman and shepherd. Died in 1940s.

David Randall's '1896: The First Modern Olympics' and its companion tweet edition are published as ebooks by Black Toad Books at £3.04 and £0.99 respectively