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“Corruption, cheating, stupidity, poisoning, wild dogs, this story has something for everyone.” | Nic Sampson on the bizarre history of Marathon 1904

Tell us about the show you’re bringing to the Vault Festival, Marathon 1904.

My show is about the third Olympic marathon which was held in St Louis, Missouri in 1904. It’s widely considered to be the worst marathon in Olympic history, and for very good reason. The race conditions were sweltering, the course was a nightmare, and the runners were denied water. And that’s just the start of the madness. Corruption, cheating, stupidity, poisoning, wild dogs, this story really has something for everyone. 

My show attempts to bring this race to life LIVE in front of your shining eyes.

Where did you find the information to make your show historically accurate?

One of my main sources for this show has been a book by a race official named Charles JP Lucas. He wrote a handy first hand account of the marathon, during which he implicates himself in a lot of the idiocy. 

It can be tricky to figure out which of the bad decisions were made because people just didn’t know any better back then, and which were just down to individual stupidity. But I don’t think we will ever know 100% everything that happened out on those barren roads.

Do you think there are any lessons contemporary competitive sporting events could learn from the 1904 marathon?

Don’t ingest rat poison. Take proper drugs that work!

What is your personal favourite detail about the 1904 marathon?

1904 was the year that America was introduced en masse to the modern ice-cream cone. Which is a very funny image to me – these runners going through literal hell, while crowds of spectators on the sideline enjoyed delicious ice cream cones for the first time.

This is a work-in-progress show. How much do you expect it to change between the Vault Festival performance and the finished product?

That’s mostly up to the reaction I get from you, the audience. I’m desperate for your approval! 

What do you hope people take away from your show?

I hope people come away from my show hungry for delicious ice cream.

Are there any other shows you’re looking forward to at the Vault Festival?

Ray Badran.

Do you have any advice for anyone looking to break into comedy?

One of the things I’ve learned moving here from New Zealand is that to get ahead in London it really pays to come from a wealthy background. My advice would be: be rich!


Nic is performing Marathon 1904 at Vault Festival on 14th and 15th March.

Book your ticket here.

Find out more about Vault Festival here.

You can keep up with Nic’s work by checking out his website and following him on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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