The world may be full of able runners, but it takes a special sort of athlete to compete in multiple marathons at once. That’s exactly what Japan’s Shizo Kanakuri, born in 1891, managed to do—though he may not have planned it that way.
A member of his country’s very first Olympic team, Kanakuri was running for Japan in the 1912 Stockholm games when he dropped out due to heat. He took refuge in a nearby garden, whose owners provided him with an hour’s worth of refreshments and company.
But rather than rejoin the race afterward, Kanakuri fled in disgrace and scuttled back to Japan on his own. At that point Swedish officials lost track of him, and despite his turning up again at the 1920 and 1924 Olympics, they would conclude that he had disappeared altogether.
Then, in 1966, someone in Sweden apparently got to wondering where Japan’s pioneering marathoner had gone. After, presumably, a thorough search of the Bermuda Triangle, Swedish Television tracked him down in Japan and invited him to Stockholm to finish his run.
The gracious Kanakuri took advantage of the opportunity, and finally made his triumphant entrance into Olympic Stadium, clocked at a blistering 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 8 hours, and 32 minutes.
That must be what they mean when they talk about skill: During the course of that one race, Shizo Kanakuri had not only participated in several other marathons; he also married and had six children and 10 grandchildren.
He died in 1984, the proud holder of a record unlikely ever to be broken.