‘Toughest race' is off; honoring Louis Tewanima's Olympic story

Tewanima won a silver medal in the 10,000 meters with a time of 32:06.6, setting a United States record that stood for 52 years. (Photo via Louis Tewanima Footrace Committee)

Vincent Schilling

The annual footraces through beautiful Hopi lands, that honor two-time olympian Louis Tewanima, will not happen this year due to COVID-19 concerns

Vincent Schilling

Indian Country Today

The Louis Tewanima footrace for 2020 has been canceled due to COVID-19 concerns, according to an announcement via Facebook.

Though the announcement likely does not come as a surprise, the cancellation is a reminder about the story of the Hopi runner honored each year, Louis Tewanima.

Tewanima, Hopi, was born in Second Mesa, Arizona, and attended the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania. He became a well-known track star and athlete that worked with Coach Glen (Pop) Warner and fellow Native athletes to include Jim Thorpe.

Tewanima demonstrated his prowess for running at the University of Pennsylvania and would secure a spot in 1908 at the Olympics in London, England, eventually placing ninth in the marathon.

Tewanima would continue to pursue running for the next several years, and as a teammate alongside Thorpe, Tewanima and Thorpe dominated track and field events across the country.

In 1912, the two Native athletes traveled to Stockholm, Sweden where they impressed the world in track and field. Thorpe would win several gold medals and Tewanima would win a silver medal in the 10,000-meter run. Tewanima’s time of 32:06.6 was a United States record that stood for 52 years.

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Tewanima left the Olympics celebrating a United States record and the title of a two-time Olympian.

Tewanima competed against 1,014 men in 1920 and set a world record in New York at Madison Square Garden in the miles between 10 and 20 at the New York Evening Mail Marathon. Due to his speed, Tewanima was considered “the fastest man in the world” for his 10-mile speed.

After a lifetime of continuous involvement of the world of track and field, Tewanima died in 1969 at 87 years of age. After returning home from ceremony, his failing eyesight caused him to fall from a cliff.

About the race

Five years after his death in 1974, the Hopi Athletic Association began supporting an event unnamed after the Hopi two-time Olympian, Louis Tewanima.

The Louis Tewanima Association sponsors the Louis Tewanima Memorial Footrace, which is held each year on the Hopi Reservation.

The Louis Tewanima Association describes their reason for sponsoring the race on their TewanimaFootrace.org website as follows:

The Louis Tewanima Association is a non-profit grassroots organization who, since 1974, has sponsored the annual Louis Tewanima Memorial Footrace held each year on the Hopi reservation. This race is held in honor of Louis Tewanima, the first and only Hopi Olympian to represent the United States in the 1908 and 1912 Olympic Games. He won a Silver medal and set an American record for the 10,000-meter race in the 1912 Games that stood until broken by Billy Mills in 1964. We continue to commemorate his desire to promote the physical, health and well-being of Native American peoples.

Because the 5K and 10K footraces take place within the beauty of the Hopi Reservation and the scenic pathways traverse both flat trails and steep inclines and declines, it is considered to be one of the most beautiful, but challenging races in Indian Country.

As the Association puts it, the footrace is “one of the toughest races in Arizona.”

For more information visit http://www.tewanimafootrace.org/ or their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/tewanimafootrace.org

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Indian Country Today’s associate editor Vincent Schilling, Akwesasne Mohawk, on Twitter @VinceSchilling and Instagram @VinceSchilling

Email - vschilling@indiancountrytoday.com

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