Today is Tom Longboat Day in Ontario, and to mark what would have been Longboat’s 133rd birthday, his great-grandson Will Winnie joined about 800 schoolchildren for a run at Six Nations of the Grand River where Longboat grew up, near Brantford, Ont.
Winnie travelled from his home in Buffalo, NY to join the celebration. After attending a celebration to honour past Boston Marathon champions in 2016, he was inspired to get serious about his own running, and ran the Mississauga Marathon in both 2017 and 2018. “Today marks the first day of training leading up to the Chicago Marathon in October,” Winnie told us.
Toronto’s Longboat Roadrunners (named in his honour) also sent a small team of runners out to join the festivities. Longtime club member John MacMillan reports that the event began with a traditional greeting, soft shoe dancers, and an address from the local Chief.
Few would argue that Longboat was the strongest distance runner Canada has ever produced. Among his many accomplishments, he won the Boston Marathon in 1907, setting a new course record of 2:24:24 (more than five minutes faster than the previous record), at age 19. Longboat captured every Canadian record from the mile to the marathon at some point in his career.
Despite retiring from running at age 29 to fight for Canada during World War I, during which he was twice wounded, he endured prejudice and racism throughout his life.
Cindy Martin, whose great, great-grandmother was Longboat’s sister Lucy, sits on the committee that organizes the celebration at Six Nations. “I’m happy that my great great uncle inspired the world,” Martin wrote to us by email. “He ran beyond the hopes and dreams of many, and yet he was humble to everyone.”
Longboat was born on this day in 1886 and died in 1949 at age 62. In 2008 Bill 120 was enacted in Ontario to proclaim June 4 Tom Longboat Day.
For more information about Tom Longboat, click here.