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Remembering Tom Longboat: January 9: Snapshots in History

January 10, 2017 | John P. | Comments (0)


(Credit: Charles Aylett, Tom Longboat with the Ward Marathon Trophy, 1907. “T. Longboat, the Canadian runner. Standing (HS85-10-18314).jpg” Canadian Copyright Collection held by the British Library. This image is in the public domain.)



(Credit: Charles Aylett,  “T Longboat, the Canadian runner running (HS85-10-18315).jpg”, 1907 Canadian Copyright Collection held by the British Library. This image is in the public domain.)



(Credit: CBC Digital Archives - Marathon runner Tom 'Wildfire' Longboat; Medium: Radio; Program: Our Native Land; Broadcast Date: Oct. 8, 1977; Guest(s): Wilton Littlechild; Host: Bob Charlie; Duration: 4:06)

On January 9 and beyond, take a moment to remember the life and accomplishments of Canadian long-distance runner Tom Longboat (Thomas Charles Longboat; Aboriginal name: Cogwagee) (Born: June 4, 1887 at Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation Reserve, Brantford, Ontario; Died: January 9, 1949 at Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation Reserve, Brantford, Ontario). Longboat was a member of the Onondaga people, one of the constituent nations of the Iroquois Confederacy. Prior to World War One, Tom Longboat had several major victories to his credit including the Hamilton “Around the Bay” in 1906, the Boston Marathon in 1907, the Toronto Ward’s Marathon from 1906-1908 and the World’s Professional Marathon Championship in 1909 at Madison Square Garden in New York City. Unfortunately, Longboat was less successful at the 1908 London Olympics as he collapsed at the 19-mile mark and did not complete the race. His coaches and promoters often disagreed with his training method of alternating hard workout periods with active rest. However, his results improved after he bought up his own contract in 1911; in 1912, Longboat set a professional record of running 15 miles (= 24.1402 kilometres) in 1 hour 18 minutes and 10 seconds, besting his own amateur record by seven minutes.

In February 1916, Longboat enlisted with the 107th Pioneer Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (CEF) to serve as a dispatch runner. Longboat was wounded twice and once erroneously officially declared dead but was able to compete in the 1918 Canadian Corps Dominion Day competitions in which he won the 8-mile (13-kilometre) race. After the First World War, Longboat retired from professional running and moved to Toronto where he worked as a City of Toronto garbage collector until he retired in 1944 and returned to the Six Nations of the Grand River First Nation Reserve where he ultimately died from pneumonia in early 1949. Longboat was inducted into Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1955.

Consider the following titles for borrowing from Toronto Public Library collections: 

Showdown at Shepherd's Bush the 1908 Olympic marathon and the three runners who launched a sporting craze   The man who ran faster than everyone the story of Tom Longboat  Tom Longboat by Bruce Kidd   Tom Longboat by Terry Barber



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