Who Was Tom Longboat and What is the History. Today’s Google Doodle celebrates Tom Longboat, one of Canada’s greatest sportsmen and the first First Nations member to win the Boston Marathon.
Born on the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, Canada in 1887, Longboat was a member of the Onondaga Nation whose Iroquois name was Cogwagee, meaning “everything.”
As an amateur racer, Longboat only lost three races and won the 1907 Boston Marathon just two years after he entered his first competitive race in Caledonia.
Longboat had a tough upbringing, helping his mother work their small farm after his father died when he was just five, according to the Windspeaker newspaper. His early hard work and subsequent training put him in good stead for long distance running—when he won in Boston he beat the previous record by five minutes.
His training regime was just as revolutionary as he was. Using a technique of hard workout days mixed with easier and rest days was not standard practice at the time, though it is now much more widely accepted.
When World War I broke out, Longboat served in the Canadian army in France—using his running prowess to deliver messages between military posts. According to Google, the work was so dangerous he was twice declared dead by mistake.
Surviving those declarations and the war, Longboat returned to the Six Nations Reserve, opting to race rarely until his death in 1949 at the age of 61.
Longboat was inducted into the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame in 1955 where he is noted as being “Canada’s greatest long distance runner.” The Hall also praises Longboat’s “endurance and fortitude” in running, which they describe as being a great metaphor for the racism and stereotyping he had to face during his career.
Since 1951, the Tom Longboat Award, administered by the Aboriginal Sport Circle, is given annually to the top male and female aboriginal athletes from a shortlist from each Canadian province.
Seen in Canada and the United States, today’s Google Doodle celebrates a running Tom Longboat as an animated illustration of him switches between civilian and military outfits next to a Canadian maple leaf