Thomas Charles Longboat did not receive a decoration for bravery. He was not killed during the fighting by performing a daring and outstanding feat. Rather, it is an example of the selflessness shown by Canadians to the chaos that was spreading across Europe.
Longboat was an Onondaga from Six Nations Grand River Reserve. He had a great reason not to join: he was world champion in long distance running. In 1907, he won the Boston Marathon (a distance of about 40 kilometers) in record time. His nearest competitor was four-fifths of a mile behind him. His celebrity became even more important in 1909 when he won the World Professional Marathon Championship at Madison Square Garden in New York.
His racing achievements had earned him thousands of dollars when, in February 1916, at the age of 29, he gave up his athletic career to enlist. Although the rewards were of a different order, he continued to race. Longboat was rider of the 107th Pioneer Battalion in France and delivered messages and orders between the units. He was also in good shape by participating in race competitions between the battalions, which he won on many occasions. At the Canadian Expeditionary Force competitions held on Dominion Day in 1918, Longboat won the eight-mile race.
The famous runner was wounded twice during his service. On one occasion he was pronounced dead, but survived the war and returned safely to Canada in 1919. Tom Longboat died in 1949 at the age of 62. It is part of the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame and the Indian Hall of Fame.