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Canadian Indian Victorious On Changed Course

Friday, April 19, 12:00 p.m.

1. T. Longboat, West End Young Men's Christian Association, ON 2:24:24
2. R. Fowler, Cambridgeport Gym 2:27:54
3. J.J. Hayes, St. Bartholomew Club, NY 2:30:38
4. J. O'Mara, Cambridgeport, MA 2:35:37
5. J.J. Lee, St. Alphonsus Athletic Association, Roxbury, MA 2:36:04
6. C. Petch, North End Athletic Club, Toronto, ON 2:36:47
7. S. Hatch, Chicago, IL 2:37:11
8. J.H. Neary, Natick, MA 2:37:59
9.J. Lindquist, Swedish A&G Club 2:38:58
10. C. Schlobohm, Mercury Athletic Association, NY 2:42:02

1907 marked another move for the Marathon starting line. Repairs to the Metcalf Hill railroad bridge and an unprecedented 124 runners forced the start down the street to Steven's Corner on Hopkinton Road.

Thomas Longboat, an Onondaga Indian and a running legend by the time of the 1907 race, came from his home near Hamilton, Ontario to run the Boston Marathon. The automobile- and bicycle-infested streets of Boston and surrounding communities were a far cry from the uncrowded streets of the reservation where Longboat trained.

Longboat, who ran with a cold, was part of a leading 10-person pack. In Framingham, a freight train crossed the Marathon route just after the pack passed by, creating a log jam for the other 114 runners, including Olympic gold medalist Tom Hicks.

Longboat went on to win the Marathon. He never returned for another Boston Marathon, but became a professional, racing indoors for prize money and a stadium full of bettors.

The Globe story from 1907 makes what is probably the first-ever printed reference to the "heartbreaking" hills of Newton, and in the sidebar offers up the theory (repeated many times since) that even the best runners have only a few great marathons in them.

From the Boston Globe, April 20, 1907

Caffrey's Time Improved by About Five Minutes
Fowler, Himself a Mark-Shaver, Half-Mile Behind at Finish

Thomas Longboat, a full-blooded Indian from Hamilton, Ont., won the famous B.A.A. Marathon race of 25 miles from Ashland to Boston yesterday in 2h 24m 24s, beating the record for the course 2h 29m 23 3-5s, which was made by J.J. Caffrey, also of Hamilton, in 1901, when the latter won the race for the second time.

Robert Fowler of the Cambridgeport G.A., who finished third two years ago, also broke the record, coming in second this year. His time was 2h 27m 54 4-5s. J.J. Hayes of New York finished third in 2h 30m 38 3-5s. It was the 11th race, and the winners each year have been divided between Cambridge, New York and Canada. The record now stands, Cambridge and New York tied with four wins each, and Canada with three wins. Just 102 started, and 53 had finished when the race was called off.

The thousands of persons who lined the streets from Ashland to the B.A.A. were well repaid for the hours of waiting in the rain and chilly winter weather, for they saw in Tom Longboat the most marvelous runner who has ever sped over our roads. With a smile for everyone, he raced along and at the finish he looked anything but like a youth who had covered more miles in a couple of hours than the average man walks in a week. Gaining speed with each stride, encouraged by the wild shouts of the multitude, the bronze-colored youth with jet black hair and eyes, long, lithe body and spindle legs, swept toward the goal.

Amid the wildest din heard in years, Longboat shot across the line, breaking the tape as the timers stopped their watches, simultaneously with the clicking of a dozen cameras, winner of the greatest of all modern Marathon runs. Arms were stretched out to grasp the winner, but he needed no assistance.

Waving aside those who would hold him, he looked around and acknowledged the greetings he received on every side. Many pressed forward to grasp his hand, and but for the fact that the police had strong ropes there to keep all except the officials in check, he would have been hugged and sqeezed mightily. Then he strode into the club, strong and sturdily.

The race:

Passing along to Natick about a dozen of the runners had crossed the railroad track when along came a freight train. Down went the gates, and when the rest of the bunch came along they had to keep running in circles for nearly a minute until the train passed.

It was easily seen that Longboat was the center of attraction. As the first men passed everyone seemed anxious to know where the Indian was. The run into Natick afforded a bit of shelter for the men, as the woods kept the biting wind from driving across the course diagonally. Lorz and Leo were on even terms as the center of Natick was reached.

The time in 1901, the record year, was 12:45 to that point, but the two leaders passed through at 12:44. So one minute had been shaved off the record then.

Longboat [in ninth place] was immediately recognized and a great shout went up. The Indian was advised to get a hustle on, but he only smiled.

Sammy Mellor was right behind, and the quartet of stars clung together as they swept down into the bit of a valley that precedes the first of the hills going on to Wellesley. Here was where the Indian began to get his work in. He had shifted to his toes and was apparently running on air. As they reached the grade it has no effect on him, and he pegged right along, while the others began to lag.

In fact when [Longboat, now running fourth] saw another hill in sight, it seemed to please him. He soon was abreast of Petch and within sprinting distance of the leaders. There at the college grounds were a lot of the students gathered on roofs, on the sidewalks or in the windows, and they gave the runners a great cheer. It was the same old story for Longboat, and as he caught sight of the girls waving to him he grinned broadly and nodded his head.

Then came the run down toward the Newtons. It began to rain then. First, a few flakes of sleet cut the runners and then it turned to a drizzle of rain. This disheartened a lot of them and they fell far behind or quit.

The thoroughbreds, however, felt in it a relief, for it kept them cool. It saved them from having to drink water to keep their mouths free from dust, and as water slows a man up, the weather was just right for record-breaking from then on. It chilled the arms a bit, but that was all.

As the Newtons were neared the gap between Lee and his pursuers slowly decreased. Hot on his heels came Petch and Longboat, running abreast. Then came another slight hill. Lee was game, and he started to climb it with his usual stride, but nature rebelled. He tried to keep the running pants out from his stomach, as if the garment were hurting him.

Longboat seemed to realize that now was his chance. He lengthened his stride a little, and as the top of the rise was reached he was on even terms with Lee. The latter's friends yelled encouragement, but it was no use.

Longboat put on a trifle more steam to carry him away from Petch, so as to make the position cleaner. In a dozen yards more Longboat was in first place. It was just 1:20 then, and more than half the course had been covered.

When the four corners were reached, where the turn is made into Commonwwalth av., there was a big crowd on hand. Petch let out a little as he saw the ovation awaiting Longboat, and decided to share in it. Just before the corner was reached he was abreast of the Indian, and the two swung around together on even terms. There was a wild cheer, and Petch danced along rather than ran as he waved to the crowd. Longboat simply smiled.

Caffrey's time to that point was 1h 29m. Longboat and Petch did it in 1h 27m 20s. Every one knew that the record was going then, unless something happened to the leaders, for they were running strongly. On this stretch the men found it fine running, and they began to leave the others far in the rear.

Then came the heartbreaking hills leading up to the reservoir. These hills have been the means of ending the hopes of more than one prospective winner in former years. The sight of them seemed to be like a visit of the spririt of rejuvenation to the Indian.

Many expected to see him begin to fag out. But he did not show a trace of it. Petch did, however. Before the hill was half-climbed Longboat no longer had a rival. The way he sailed along up as fast as if he were on level ground must have broken Petch's spirit, for the latter began to show signs of weariness. His face became drawn then, and he no longer smiled.

Not so with Longboat. With every stride now he was putting himself further and further from any chance of losing.

Down the intervale he sped, and then came the second and harder climb. It was the same old story. Never faltering, he glided along, meeting cheers everywhere.

When he mounted the second hill and started on the final stretch for home the nearest man to him was not in sight at the foot of the hill.

The finish:

People endangered their lives as they stood in the street to get a glimpse of the runner as he raced along _ for racing he was, sure enough, without any need of a pacemaker and getting all the honors for himself. From Coolidge Corner on there was nothing to it, Longboat winning by more than half a mile. Had he felt like putting on a spurt he could have done a great deal better, but he was satisfied to win and make a new record that will probably remain for some years, unless he enters again next year.

With his awkward stride Longboat rounded the corner of Commonwealth av. and Exeter st. and although he faltered immediately before the finish line in front of the B.A.A. clubhouse, the halt was not necessitated by fatigue, as was proven by his performance in the B.A.A. gymnasium immediately after the race. Although he rode in the elevator to the fourth floor of the building he disdained to visit the physicians whose duty it was to make an examination of the contestants immediately after the race, but sought the small indoor track.

After running two laps enthusiastic members of the club prevailed upon him to cease, and with his trainer and manager, Charles Ashley, supporting him, he walked several more laps, and then allowed himself to undergo the physical examination.

When questioned for a statement Longboat was particularly reticent. Longboat is of the Onondaga tribe and is fairly well educated, although his trainer did the bulk of the talking for him after the race yesterday. Longboat, after the custom of his race, was particularly silent as to his achievement, and simply announced that had the day been warmer he would have put the record lower than he did yesterday.

Longboat expressed himself as being satisfied with his acheivement yesterday and said that he would never again compete in the Boston race, but would devote all his time, attention and perseverence to the conditioning of himself for the Olympic games which are to be held in London in 1908.

The real surprise of the Marathon run yesterday was Robert J. Fowler of the Cambridgeport gym association.

Fowler claims that if he had not been held up by a train on the spur track which crossed the highway at South Framingham, he would have been a more serious contender of Longboat. He and his friends claim that the long frieght train blocked the roadway for two minutes.

Sidebar from the Globe:

This Was the Combination That Brought Longboat Home Ahead in Record Time, Says James B. Connolly
But Author-Athlete Doubts If Marathon Run Is Worth The Harm It Works

The Indian is a great runner. He has everything to make him so -- a light, well-apportioned body, capacious chest, good vital organs, a shuffling, and if you will, awkward but economical style that counts in a long, hard grind. Longboat ran a well-planned, well-gaged and gritty race that only a Johnnie Caffrey, possibly, could have withstood.

The remarkably fast time made by the leaders may be attributed in part of course from individual merit, to the unusually good condition of the roads, to the fresh breeze and light rain which revived the contestants where usually they began to falter, and to the very fast pace set by Lee and Lorz, but mostly by Lee. Unfortunately for his own chances, Lee ran too high off the ground. No man can lift knee and heels like he does and hope to last 25 miles.

The amazing thing about this race is that so many young men will train for months, and then turn out enthusiastically for a contest that will try their endurance to the limit of agaony, wherein victory means but a paltry prize and only fleeting and local glory, and which completely devitalizes a man for some time to come. It is a certain and possibly gratifying indication that this great country has energy to squander.

The results of this race year after year would seem to show that a man cannot pursue the practice of 25-mile running without permanent nervous and muscular deterioration. Witness Lorz, Mellor, Spring and Frank, three of them previous winners and the other a third man at Athens a year ago. They have all gone back.

This race seems always to be won by men who have not been following up the game too long. Maybe it is a pity to encourage it.