Year of Induction: 2016
Inspired by a fellow resident of Six Nations Reserve, Bill Davis, a Boston runner up, Longboat trained to become a world class marathoner. His first key victory was in Hamilton’s Around the Bay 30km in 1906, the oldest road race in North America.
But he is perhaps best known for winning the 1907 Boston Marathon in front of hundreds of thousands of spectators by a margin of three and a half minutes. Rather than return to Boston to defend his title he instead focused on representing Canada at the 1908 Olympics. However, he collapsed at the 20-mile mark. The heat also affected Dorando Pietri of Italy who collapsed and was famously helped across the finish line only to be disqualified.
Soon after the Olympics Longboat turned professional to capitalize on the growing interest in indoor long distance racing. Among his many dominant victories on the circuit he won the 1909 match race inside New York’s Madison Square Garden before a sell-out crowd. Among those he defeated to earn the title ‘Professional Champion of the World’ were Pietri and the great British athlete Alfie Shrubb with whom he enjoyed a lengthy rivalry. In their ten meetings Shrubb never beat Longboat at distances over 20 miles.
Shrubb reportedly once called Longboat “one of the greatest if not the greatest marathoner of all time.”
Longboat served as a dispatch runner during World War 1 in France and returned to professional running at the end of the war. He died on the Six Nations Reserve in 1949.
In more recent years he has been commemorated with a Toronto based running club Longboat Roadrunners. And in 1951 The Tom Longboat Awards were founded to recognize leading aboriginal sportsmen.