News Archive

News Archive

Medals and Diplomas for the real,- BERLIN-MARATHON

Traditionally, each finisher in the real,- BERLIN-MARATHON is decorated with a

medal. Over the years, these medals have commemorated remarkable figures and

events from the history of marathon running. Having depicted ancient Greek

runners in the first years, since 1978 the medals have been dedicated to former

Olympic marathon champions. The effigies of Olympic champions also embellish

the diplomas which are mailed to all finishers. The purpose is to posthumously

honour the pioneers of marathon running. After all, they literally are the

forerunners, and in some cases, idols of today’s popular marathon boom.

There have been four exceptions, though: for the 25th BERLIN-MARATHON, in

1998, a jubilee medal was designed, while the 1999 version showed the head of

Ronaldo da Costa (Brazil), and in 2000 the effigy of Tegla Loroupe (Kenya),

after both had set new world records in Berlin. And in 2001, too, Japanese

winner Naoko Takahashi ran another world record, and at the finish was able to

receive a medal donning her face – a pre-programmed world record, so to

say. This year, the real,- BERLIN-MARATHON goes far back memory lane: its

medals and diplomas will show Mohamed El Ouafi, the 1928 Olympic marathon


Here is an overview of all Berliner Marathon medals:

1974 - 77: Ancient Greek runners

1978: Kitei Son (Korea/1936)

1979: Spiridon Louis (Griechenland/1896)

1980: Waldemar Cierpinski (DDR/1976 und 80)

1981: Frank Shorter (USA/1972)

1982: Hannes Kolehmainen (Finnland/1920)

1983: Alain Mimoun (Frankreich/1956)

1984: Abebe Bikila (Äthiopien/1960 u. 64)

1985: Michel Théato (Frankreich/1900)

1986: Juan Zabala (Argentinien/1932)

1987: John Hayes (USA/1908)

1988: Emil Zatopek (Tschechoslowakei/1952)

1989: Mamo Wolde (Äthiopien/1968)

1990: Joan Benoit (USA/1984)

1991: Carlos Lopes (Portugal/1984)

1992: Delfo Cabrera (Argentinien/1948)

1993: Kenneth McArthur (Südafrika/1912)

1994: Gelindo Bordin (Italien/1988)

1995: Rosa Mota (Portugal/1988)

1996: Spiridon Louis (Griechenland/1896)

1997: Waldemar Cierpinski (DDR/1976 und 80)

1998: Together weve run into history

1999: Ronaldo da Costa (Brasilien/Weltrekordler)

2000: Tegla Loroupe (Kenia/Weltrekordlerin)

2001: Naoko Takahashi (Japan/Weltrekord)

2002: Mohamed El Ouafi (Frankreich/1928)

Every running enthusiast knows how Abebe Bikila’s bare feet, padding

along the Appian Way, brought him victory in the 1960 Olympics. Few know that

the first African to win the Olympic Marathon had done so 32 years earlier in

Amsterdam, running for France.

Mohamed El Ouafi was born near Biskra, 300 km south-east of Algiers and on

the northern fringes of the Sahara Desert, on 18 October 1898. He farmed date

trees, but took up running when he was 23, and soon afterwards moved to France.

He was running for a Parisian club during the build-up towards the 1924

Olympics, to be held in Paris. The marathon course was 42.195 km, which

thereafter became the standard marathon distance.

The race was on 13th July. During May and June El Ouafi competed at

distances from 15 km – 30 km, at which he was consistently beaten by the

French champion, Jean Manhes. Manhes dropped out of the Olympic marathon trial,

and El Ouafi won in 2:50:53. He went on to finish 7th in the Olympic Marathon,

a race completed by only 30 of the 58 starters.

He returned to Algeria and ran dispatches for the French Army during 1926 in

their campaign against Abd-al-Karim’s insurgency movement, spreading from

Spanish Morocco. Running long distances under tough conditions developed his

endurance capabilities, and he returned to France in 1927 to prepare for the

next Olympic Games in Amsterdam.

After a winter of

cross-country he recorded 2:18:30 to win a 35 km road race on 1st April 1928.

In the French Olympic marathon trial on 8th July, held over a course of 38.5

km, he won in 2:20:03. Four weeks later, on 5th August, he lined up in the

stadium with 67 others to contest the Olympic Marathon for the second time.

El Ouafi proved a fine judge of pace. He was content to trail the American

Joie Ray through half way, before the course “made a big loop over very

open country”. Contemporary reports (The Times, London, 6 August 1928)

praised the “remarkable persistence” of the Japanese pair of

Kennematsu Yamada and Seiichiro Tsuda who led as they retraced their steps back

towards the stadium after 30 km. Ray went clear at 35 km as El Ouafi, trailed

by eventual silver medallist Manuel Plaza of Chile, moved steadily up the

field. Yamada regained the lead from a tiring Ray at 38 km but three kilometres

from the finish El Ouafi passed Yamada for a clear run back into the stadium.

Entering to a trumpet fanfare “the dark-skinned little man in the French

Olympic colours” surprised the waiting crowd with “a display of

steady and apparently easy going running”.

After his Olympic victory El Ouafi left his job as a turner with the Paris

works of Renault and turned professional. He sought out racing opportunities in

the United States and his most emphatic win came in an indoor marathon at

Madison Square Garden in New York. He defeated the former Olympic silver

medallist Juri Lossman, as well as Arthur Newton and Willie Kohlemainen,

recording 2:44:56 and finishing 400 m ahead of Joie Ray (5th in Amsterdam). He

returned home with winnings of $ 4000.

Hugh Jones