Cuba can claim many athletics heroes, especially from the 1970s through to the present day, but the man who is often spoken of as being inspiration for establishing the sport on the island was a humble mailman called Felix Carvajal.
Athletics in Cuba during the last decades of the 19th century had no formal organisation and the events that did take place were often head-to-head endurance races for wagers over no uniform distance.
Against this background, so the legend goes, the 14-year-old Felix de la Caridad Carvajal y Soto, to give him his full name, was already working as a mailman and developing a reputation as an impressive distance runner, first came to island-wide attention.
One day in 1889, Carvajal was challenged to a race by a Spaniard named Mario Bielsa.
The contest was of the ‘run-until-you-drop’ variety and consisted of the two men running laps around the main square in Carvajal’s hometown of San Antonio de los Banos.
After around 10 hours, Bielsa quit but Carvajal continued until he had been running for 12 hours and could collect his prize purse. Into the bargain, he gained additional kudos as his victory was at the expense of a well-known representative of the unpopular Spanish colonial power.
SOURCE: WORLD ATHLETICS