Tom Longboat



His spectacular finishing sprints made Longboat a celebrated pre-WWI long-distance runner.

Though most young Canadians have never heard of Tom Longboat, in the early 20th century he was one of the most famous athletes in the western world.

He entered the 1907 Boston Marathon—at the time the most prestigious of all road races—as the odds-on favourite. In front of 100,000 spectators, Longboat defeated 123 other runners and smashed the previous marathon record by almost 5 minutes, running the final 1.6 kilometres uphill, into a snow squall, in four minutes, forty-seconds.

In 1908 he was favoured to win the London Olympics but collapsed and was carried grief-stricken from the course.

As a professional, he ruled the match-race circuit. His Madison Square Gardens showdown with British champion Alfie Shrubb in 1909 was the greatest marathon of the century with Longboat pulling ahead to victory in the final mile of the race.

Longboat's desire to train himself led to several well-publicized conflicts with managers. Despite constant and sometimes racist criticism, he stuck to his own methods. He bought up his contract in 1911 and ran better than ever. In 1912, he set a professional record of 1:18:10 for 15 miles - 7 minutes faster than his amateur record.

He raced successfully during WWI while serving as a dispatch runner in France. After the war he lived and worked in Toronto until 1944, when he retired to the Six Nations Reserve.

Tom Longboat of Onondaga, Ontario. An indelible Footprint on the playing fields of Canada.