June 4 marks what would have been marathon runner Tom Longboat’s 131st birthday. To celebrate, Google is honoring him with a Google Doodle. Here’s what you need to know about the Iroquois runner!
1. Tom was the First Nations member to win the Boston Marathon. The First Nations are the predominant indigenous peoples in Canada south of the Arctic Circle. Tom was a member of the Onondaga Nation on the Six Nations Reserve south of Brantford, Ontario. He started racing in his teen years. He won the 1907 Boston Marathon. He was favored to win the London Olympics that same year, but he collapsed and had to be taken off the course.
2. He served in the Canadian army. He worked a dispatch runner in World War I, according to his Google bio. He usually ran across France, delivering messages between military posts. Once his service was finished, he went back to the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario. He lived on the Six Nations reserve until his death in 1949. He died of pneumonia.
3. He was declared dead — twice. Because his work as a dispatch runner was extremely dangerous he was mistakenly declared dead twice while serving in the war.
4. He had a complicated love life. Being mistakenly declared had consequences. He had married Lauretta Maracle in 1908, according to his Wikipedia page. When he was declared dead, Lauretta remarried in 1918. When she found out that he was still alive, she still did not want to leave her new husband. Tom later married Martha Silversmith, and the couple had four children together.
5. His Iroquois name was Cogwagee, which meant “Everything.” He was born a member of the Wolf clan and raised in the Long-house religion. according to Canada’s History. Tom means so much to Canada. He lives on as one of the best Canadian athletes of all-time. June 4 is also “Tom Longboat Day” in Ontario!