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Kalle Benallie
Indian Country Today

Monday commenced the 126th Boston Marathon, returning to its traditional spring start for the first time since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, and more than a dozen Indigenous people are running.

Kyle Sumatzkuku, Hopi, was the top Native runner who finished at 2 hours, 39 minutes and 17 seconds. His pace was 7 minutes and 43 seconds per mile for the 26.2-mile run. He finished eighteen minutes after the first woman to complete the race, and 33 minutes after the winner of the race.

He ran for the first time last year and said to Indian Country Today, “The Olympic team is a long and personal goal for me as I stay on the right path and just shoot for the stars.”

Indigenous runners have long participated in the Boston Marathon for over a century. In 1907 Thomas Longboat, Onondaga Nation, became the champion.

(Related: Boston Marathon’s Indigenous legacy)

Ellison Myers "Tarzan" Brown, Narragansett, won the marathon in 1936 and 1939, breaking a world record. He later competed alongside Jesse Owens for the U.S. in Hitler’s 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

And Patti Dillon, citizen of the Mi’kmaq tribe, was a three-time runner up and made history in 1981 when she set a then-American record of 2:27:51.

WINGS of America, an organization that promotes building Native communities and youth by using running initiatives, resumed their work for the first time since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Their Boston Marathon “Pursuit” Program selects up to five Indigenous high school juniors to travel to Boston during “Marathon Weekend” from April 14 to 18. 

(Related: Boston honors Indigenous marathon runners

Verna Volker, Diné, founder of Native Women Running and Dr. Lydia Jennings, Huichol and Yaqui, soil scientist and post-doctoral fellow at the University of Arizona, volunteered to raise funds for the students and to be trip chaperones.

"Out here visiting Harvard and running along the Charles River with the Wings of America Pursuit program! We even got to visit Dr. Dan Liberman’s evolutionary biology lab & test our running gait & efficiency! Tomorrow these high school juniors run the Boston 5k!," Jennings said in a tweet. 

Indigenous runners in the Boston Marathon and their times, in order, include:
    • Reyeshaud Becenti, Navajo, 0:16:31 (Boston Athletic Association 5k)
    • Kyle Sumatzkuku, Hopi, 2:39:17
    • Jason Moyer, Spokane, 2:57:17
    • Kage Sobotta, Nez Perce, 3:01:41
    • Eric Smith, Qalipu Mi’kmaw First Nations, 3:05:52
    • Jarvis Googoo, Mi'kmaq, 3:15:07
    • Caroline Sekaquaptewa, Hopi, 3:21:17
    • Shayla Manitowabi-Huebner, Anishinaabe, 3:25:25
    • Kylie Bemis, Zuni Pueblo, 3:25:57
    • Jim (raced as James) Oocumma, Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians, 3:29:24
    • Natasha Gunaratne, Navajo, 3:32:22
    • Charleen Lundberg, Cowlitz, 3:45:04
    • Angie Hirsch, Lake Manitoba First Nation, 3:50:05
    • Lydia Jennings, Huichol and Yaqui, 3:57:17
    • Esther Arviso, Navajo, 3:58:54
    • Dale Lolar, Penobscot, 4:31:30
    • Leurette LaBobe, Mi’kmaq from Membertou First Nation, 4:33:48
    • Robyn Michaud, Anishinaabe, 4:46:43
    • Samantha Noyce, Navajo, 5:17:02
    • Brianne Lolar, Penobscot, 5:25:23
    • Kaya Lolar, Penobscot, 5:25:23
    • Angel Tadytin, Navajo, 5:30:09
    • Rocio Villalobos, detribalized Xicana, 5:46:54
    • Joel Matthew Kennedy, Bear Clan of the Oneida Nation, 5:50:16

    This race additionally marked the 50th anniversary of Nina Kuscsik's victory in the first official women's race. (But not the first woman to finish: That honor belongs to Bobbi Gibb, who first ran in 1966 among the unofficial runners known as bandits.)

    Peres Jepchirchir, reigning Olympic champion and 28-year-old Kenyan, was the first woman to finish at 2 hours, 21 minutes, 1 second. Evans Chebet completed the Kenyan sweep, finishing in 2:06:51 for his first major marathon victory.

    Daniel Romanchuk of Champaign, Illinois, won his second career wheelchair title in 1:26:58. Switzerland’s Manuela Schar won her second straight Boston crown and fourth overall, finishing in 1:41:08.

    If any Indigenous runners are missing from the list, please email kbenallie@indiancountrytoday.com

    The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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