Just 100 kilometres on Vancouver Island and 60 years separated two of Canada’s fastest men over the 400m.
Can you imagine the verdant rainforests on Vancouver Island over 200 years ago in the days of Chief Augustine Shenaban who negotiated the amalgamation seven Indigenous groups into the of the Snuneymuxw First Nations? A major means of communication and transportation was through the rainforest trails formed by the variety of wild life including deer who for centuries had trampled the undergrowth. Indigenous runners used these trails to transfer messages during this negotiation. Snuneymuxw, meaning meeting place, led to the name of the city of Nanaimo.
Can you imagine that Chief Augustine Shenaban’s grandson, William Good would be considered to be the fastest man in the world after his win in the 440 yard race in 1898 at the site of the San Francisco World’s Fair.
He was denied his award because of his Indigenous origin indicative of the prevalent racism directed towards the First Nations through the past centuries.
William Good on his 80th birthday, was present at a 1958 Parksville Centennial 440 yard performance by Olympian, Terry Tobacco of Cumberland, BC just 100 kilometres northwest of Nanaimo. Cumberland was the territory of the K’omoks First Nation. This area is now recognized as the Comox Valley.
Terry was 17 years of age when he won the bronze medal for the 440 yards distance and silver for the 4x440 yard relay at the 1954 British Empire and Commonwealth Games in Vancouver. He was recruited by Canadian Olympic coach, Bruce Humber after winning the Vancouver Island high school championships in 1952 as a 15 year old.
Terry went on to represent Canada at the 1956 and 1960 Olympic Games after graduating from the University of Washington. Those results earned him the 1954 Top Male athlete award. At the Melbourne Olympics in 1956 his anchor time of 45.3 seconds in the 4x400m relay was faster than the gold medal winning time in the 400m.
The RainForest Trail Run set for September 29th in Burnaby’s urban rainforest in Central Park, will honour the Indigenous cultures and celebrate our running history.