What could be the longest time, according to you, that a marathon runner could take in order to complete a marathon? Few hours? Okay, a few days?
Well, the answer is 54 years. 54 years, 8 months, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds to be precise. This was the time Shiso Kanakuri took to finish the race. He began the run at 1912 Stockholm Olympics.
Let’s see what happened.
Japan and Sports:
Sports was not really a popular pastime in Japan during the early 20th Century. There were martial arts, yeah but their idea was very different back then. Various new sports clubs were initiated at various schools and colleges, but that was just a beginning. Very few Japanese knew the real meaning of sports.
The trials of the 1912 Olympics were held on November 19, 1911. Shiso Kanakuri was one of the competitors.
Creation of World Record for the fastest runner:
He took only 2 hours, 32 minutes and 45 seconds to complete the marathon at the domestic qualifying trials for the Stockholm Olympics which was a world record then (though the track then was only 40 km). Due to this achievement, he was selected as one of the only two athletes that Japan could afford to send at the Stockholm 1912 Olympics, which were the first Olympics for Japan.
The journey to Sweden:
Kanakuri had to take a rough 18 days journey to Stockholm, first by ship, then by the Trans-Siberian railway. To add to the distress, the scorching summer heat of Sweden left no stones unturned. The race was held in Sollentuna Municipality in Sweden where the temperature reached as high as 25˚C which caused hyperthermia to most of the runners. He was weakened by the long journey from Japan. He also had problems with the local food and was not able to adjust to the surroundings. As a result, he lost his consciousness midway through the race.
The failure led to the world record:
Kanakuri was so much embarrassed by his failure that he silently returned to Japan without informing the race officials. Authorities of Sweden considered him missing for 50 years. Later they discovered that he was living in Japan and had completed the race in the subsequent Olympics. He participated in the 1920 Summer Olympics and completed the race in 2 hours, 48 minutes and 45.4 seconds.
Swedish television then contacted him and offered him the opportunity to complete the run in 1967. He accepted the offer and thus, the record was made.
“It was a long trip. Along the way, I got married had six children and 10 grandchildren”, Kanakuri said, talking about his unique achievement.
He is called the ‘father of marathon’ in Japan due to his early starts and varied achievements.