Published June 4, 2018
MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. – In honor of First Nation marathon record-setter Tom Longboat’s birthday, Google is featured as a caricature on as today’s “Google Doodle,” which changes daily. Longboat was born on this date in 1887. Today is his 131st birthday.
Longboat, an Onondaga from the Six Nations reserve near Brantford, Ontario, became one of Canada’s greatest runners of all time. Longboat gained worldwide fame after he set the world record at the Boston Marathon when he was 20-years-old in 1907. He ran the 24 – 1/2 mile course in a record time of 2:24:24, four minutes and 59 seconds faster than any of the previous ten winners of the previous events.
A product of Canada’s residential schools where indigenous childrend were separated from their parents, known as Indian boarding schools in the United States, Longboat ran away as a means of rebellion for being forced to speak English and forgo his traditional beliefs in favor of Chrisitianity. He attempted to escape the school, but was caught. In a second attempt to escape, he was successful and made his way to the home of an uncle, who agreed to hide him out from Canadian authorities.
After he gained fame from his running abilities, he was invited to speak at the residential school, but refused, stating that “I wouldn’t even send my dog to that place.”
Longboat was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1955. He is considered as one of the greatest, if not the greatest marathoner of all time. After settling in Toronto, Longboat returned to the Six Nations Reserve after he retired and walked on after a bout with pneumonia at the age of 62 in January 1949.