Monday, April 12, 2010

Mi'kmaq runner's name proposed for Stratford school

Mi'kmaq runner's name proposed for Stratford school
The Guardian

The new, and still unnamed, Stratford school has received another name suggestion: Michael Thomas, the greatest distance runner Prince Edward Island has ever had.
The “Great” Michael Thomas, as some Halifax newspapers called him, had a prestigious career in long distance running. He was born on Lennox Island in 1885 and first grabbed notice of Maritimers when he won the Charlottetown Patriot’s 10-mile race in 1909. Thomas would go on to win the same race three years in a row.
Thomas gained prominence in the Maritimes eventually attracting the name The Island Longboat — a name adopted from one of the most prominent long distance runners in the world at the time, Tom Longboat.
The career of Thomas is marked by many different Maritime wins and also a 26th placing in the world famous Boston Marathon, the first Islander to take part in the event.
Doug Kelly, the chair of Stratford’s heritage committee, suggested that the school be named after Thomas because he thinks the name will serve as an educational tool.
Kelly said Thomas didn’t seek to raise himself to be famous but more so to represent aboriginals in any way he could.
Edward MacDonald, UPEI history professor and Island historian, said Thomas was an outstanding person.
“He was widely admired not just for his athletic ability but for his personal qualities. In that sense, he’s a fitting symbol for Stratford and for the school.”
A committee will be making its decision on the name April 14.

Thanks to Cathy for sending us this:

©Prince Edward Island Sports Hall of Fame

Running Today: Early Twentieth Century: Michael Thomas

MICHAEL THOMAS, Micmac, Prince Edward Island, Canada

At the height of his career, Michael Thomas was the most dominant distance runner in eastern Canada. He was the first of several Micmac runners from Prince Edward Island to achieve prominence in his sport.

Born in 1885, Thomas did not begin his running career until his mid-twenties; when he did, he achieved instant success. He was the surprise winner of the first race he entered, a 10-mile "marathon" held on Prince Edward Island in 1909. That victory earned him the nickname "Island Longboat," a reference to the great Tom Longboat, whose own success had inspired Thomas to take up running.

As a member of the Abegweit Amateur Athletic Association, Thomas continued his winning ways through the 1909 and 1910 seasons. In 1910, he was the victor in the 10-mile "marathon" in Halifax, Nova Scotia. So impressive was Thomas' performance against the region's top runners that the Abegweit track club sponsored his entry in the Boston Marathon the following spring.

Thomas was among the pre-race favorites and rumors swirled that Tom Longboat, the 1907 champion, would act as his coach. However, misfortune befell Thomas in his first and only full-length marathon. Just six miles into the race, the bicyclist assigned to supply Thomas with refreshments was involved in a crash. Left on his own, determined, but dehydrated, the runner finished 26th among 127 starters, in a time of 2:50:01 2/5.

Returning home, Thomas continued his reign as eastern Canada's top distance runner. In 1912, in front of 35,000 spectators, he again won the 10-mile Halifax "marathon," for an unprecedented third consecutive year.

Remembered as a great man on and off the race course, Michael Thomas was posthumously inducted into the Prince Edward Island Sports Hall of Fame in 1980.
-Contributed by Michael O'Grady


Ballem, H. Charles

1981 Michael Thomas, Distance Runner. The Island Magazine 10: 3-7.

1986 Abegweit Dynasty: The Story of the Abegweit Amateur Athletic Association 1899- 1954. The Prince Edward Island Museum and Heritage Foundation, Charlottetown.

Additional information was supplied through the generosity of Wayne Wright, Prince Edward Island Sports Hall of Fame.

Photo credit: Courtesy of the Prince Edward Island Sports Hall of Fame

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