Volume 21 Number 4
Tom Longboat's life makes an enlightening story. Longboat was a superior athlete who was also a thoroughly impressive person. He persisted in his ability to run, much to his and Canada's benefit. This persistence contributes not a little to the success of this book by providing the suspense of the races. The author, Bruce Kidd, a runner himself, has written an affectionate biography: "One hundred years ago, in the early days of Canadian sport, many of the most outstanding athletes were native people... the finest made men in the world ... always the one to beat."
Cogwagee, whose English name was Tom Longboat, was an Onondaga, born on the Six Nations Reserve, June 4, 1887. Longboat was strong, agile and active. He loved to run and to play lacrosse, and the mission boarding school was like a prison to him. He ran away from the school at the age of twelve and worked for his uncle on the farm.
In the spring of 1905 Longboat entered his first race and loved it so much he vowed to train himself. He was a natural and chose the right way to train; he was systematic, and gradually extended his distances. His mother found it hard to believe he could run so far so fast, but he did and just got better and better. In 1907 he entered the renowned Boston Marathon and won, breaking the record. He entered the 1908 Olympics in London, but could not complete the race and was shattered by his fall. However, he soon recovered and won or nearly won every race he was in after that, as an amateur and professional until he retired in the 1930s.
He ended his days working as a street cleaner and postman, but this "didn't cramp his style." He could work outside and walk long distances, which he loved, and he provided well for his family throughout the Depression.
Easily read, this book could inspire many to persist in developing their own abilities. It also offers an explanation for the lack of Native participation in today's competitions. Excellent addition to biography collections.
Gerri Young works in the library at R.L. Angus Elementary School in Fort Nelson, British Columbia.
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