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The Man Who Ran Faster than Everyone: The Story of Tom Longboat

by Jack Batten

This biography of Canada’s greatest runner salutes him while providing a not-too-pretty lesson in Canadian sports and social history. The life story of the world-class Onondaga distance runner from Six Nations is one of athletic challenge on the racecourse and considerable cultural challenge off it.

The Man Who Ran Faster Than Everyone presents Longboat’s story in 10 chapters of dense text. It includes more than 30 black-and-white photos and a five-page index. Jack Batten, journalist, CBC reviewer, and author of 30 books, writes in a colloquial, entertainingly frank style. He describes the marathon race craze of the early 1900s, profiles many of the era’s entrepreneurs, trainers, and reporters, and contrasts the sport then and now. For all the differences, many of the issues Longboat faced (e.g., amateur-professional status challenges, conflict of interest, doping, racist stigmas of alcoholism and laziness) are still issues now.

The author’s acknowledgments include Bruce Kidd (an athlete and author of an earlier biography Tom Longboat, published in 1980). But Batten’s book, which offers little more Longboat content than Kidd’s, has curious inaccuracies and omissions. It refers incorrectly to the Six Nations community of Ohsweken (formerly Oswego) as Oshwegan. It presents only the unflattering titles the press bestowed on Longboat, ignoring the positive, non-racist ones. It describes Canadian recognition of Longboat as “low-key,” neglecting his membership in the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and the Indian Hall of Fame, the Tom Longboat Awards (established in 1951 to honour aboriginal excellence in sport), and his inclusion in the 1999 Canada Post Millennium stamp issue.

This book will appeal to YA readers interested in Longboat and distance running or those keen on Canadian sports history. It belongs in senior-elementary school, high school, and public library collections.