Shizo Kanakuri Needed 54 Years to Complete the 1912 Olympic Marathon

Shizo Kanakuri is a Japanese marathon runner who holds the record for the longest time needed to complete a marathon with 54 years, eight months, six days, five hours, 32 minutes, and 20.3 seconds. The story of how he got to own the record is quite fascinating.

In 1911, Kanakuri became the first Japanese athlete to qualify for the 1912 Stockholm Olympics and one of two Japanese athletes to compete at the games. In order to get to Stockholm, Kanakuri needed to raise the funds on his own and then take an 18-day-long trip that included traveling by ship and train.

Arriving in Stockholm, the already-exhausted Kanakuri encountered new problems. Stockholm was experiencing a “white nights” period, causing him trouble falling asleep, and he also didn’t enjoy the food. Additionally, his coach was diagnosed with tuberculosis, preventing him from taking part in the training.

The 1912 Olympics marathon was held during a heat wave, which caused a number of runners to drop out. Kanakuri managed to run for around 16 miles before leaving the track and resting in the garden of a local family, which offered him orange juice.

Embarrassed by his actions, Kanakuri decided to leave Stockholm and return to his native Japan without even notifying the officials. This made him a running joke in Sweden, with the country even listing him as a missing person.

In subsequent years, Kanakuri competed at the 1920 Antwerp Olympics, where he finished at No. 16, and the 1924 Paris Olympics, where he didn’t finish the race. But his name has become legendary in Sweden in the meantime.

In 1967, one Swedish reporter working as a teacher in Japan came across Kanakuri and notified the Swedish Television. Kanakuri was then offered a chance to complete the 1912 Olympics marathon, which he abandoned and surprisingly accepted.

Despite already being 75, Kanakuri finished the race and even met with the descendants of the family that hosted him in the garden more than 54 years earlier.

“It was a long trip. Along the way, I got married, had six children and 10 grandchildren,” said Kanakuri after accomplishing the feat.

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