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Tom Longboat gets a Google Doodle on 131st anniversary of his birth

Ontario celebrates the Onondaga runner every year on his birthday, June 4

Google is very tuned in to the running world. Today, on the 131st anniversary of Tom Longboat’s birth, the Google Doodle is an image of the Onondaga runner from the Grand River First Nation in Brantford, Ont. (On April 26 Google honoured Dutch runner Fanny Blankers-Koen in the same way, on what would have been her 100th birthday.)

Longboat, as most Canadians know, was the dominant distance runner of his time, beating many other runners from around the world and helping to raise the profile of marathon running internationally.

Among his many accomplishments was winning the Boston Marathon in 1907 and setting a new course record of 2:24:24. Longboat retired from running at the age of 29 to fight for Canada during World War I, during which he was twice wounded. 

Longboat was born on this day in 1887 and died in 1949 at age 62. Bill 120 was enacted in Ontario in 2008 to proclaim June 4 Tom Longboat Day.

According to Google’s History of the Google Doodle, the doodle originated with the founders playfully inserting a simple “Burning Man” stick figure behind the second ‘o’ in the logo during the 1998 festival in the Nevada desert. The practice has grown so much over the years, with the doodle celebrating events both famous and obscure, that it’s now overseen by a team of anonymous illustrators known as “doodlers.”

This particular Google Doodle appeared in Canada and the US, and was designed by Matthew Cruickshank. Alternate animated versions showed Longboat running, alternately as an athlete and as a soldier.