The Longest Olympic Marathon Took 54 Years To Finish
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Japan's Olympics comes to a close today, so let's take a quick look back at the country's history with the Olympics, which goes back over a century. The first time they participated in the games was 1912, when Sweden hosted them. Japan sent just two athletes that year, Yahiko Mishima and Shizo Kanakuri. Getting them to Stockholm was no easy task.
Oh, we're not saying that qualifying was hard. Shizo Kanakuri, though just 20 years old, possibly held the world record at the time for doing the marathon ("possibly," because the marathon was extra short in 1912, so no one's sure if that should count). We're saying that it was hard to physically travel from Japan to Sweden.
With air travel not exactly an option, the Japanese athletes took 18 days to make the journey. First there was the ship to Russia, then more than a week of rail travel. Shizo needed five days just to unwind afterward, and he spent much of it taking care of Yahiko, who'd fallen ill. This is definitely not the recommended regimen for an athlete in the days right before the Olympics.
So when the time came for the marathon, Shizo wasn't quite running on all cylinders. He made it about three-quarters of the way through before collapsing in the heat. A family in a nearby house took him in, and he didn't wake up till the next morning.
Shizo was so ashamed about screwing up his race that he didn't even check in with Olympic coordinators before slipping back to Japan. So, Sweden labeled him as "missing." He officially remained missing for decades. Sweden clearly didn't look too hard for him, since Shizo didn't keep a low profile in the years to come and even ran the marathon in the Olympics again in 1920 and 1924.
In 1967, the Swedish National Olympic Committee finally got around to tracking the man down. They invited Shizo Kanakuri, now aged 75, to come back to Stockholm to finish that marathon of his. He said yes.
After he ran through the ribbon at the end of the race, someone read out the time he'd taken to complete it. Altogether, it was 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 5 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds.
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Top image: via Wiki Commons