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Epic race shed a light on NorCal

Michelle Radison

Special to the Triplicate

On June 14, 1927, Native Americans gathered at San Francisco City hall to prepare for a marathon. The course was a long one, from San Francisco to Grants Pass, Ore. The winner received $1,000 and bragging rights. There were few rules, "run when you can, walk when you can, sleep when you have to."

Runners also were required to be at least one quarter Native American. Participants were required to have a car follow them with supplies and an umpire to ensure there was no cheating.

At 10 a.m., the runners were ready to go. On the roster were eight members from Happy Camp named, Rushing Water, Flying Cloud, Fighting Stag, Falcon Mad, Mad Bull, Thunder Cloud Sweke Eagle, and Big White Deer. Other participants were from the Zuni Nation. The most attention was given to Zuni runner Mekika, as well as Jamom from New Mexico, Chochee from Humboldt and Melika from Willits.

On day one, Flying Cloud was in the lead, by June 16, Mad Bull had moved into first after running 37 miles through the night and had run 191 miles north of the bay. Jamong, the Zuni hopeful, had dropped out of the race due to foot blisters, Rushing Water and Falcon had been picked up for medical reasons and resumed their run after being dropped off at a pit stop.

When the runners arrived at Fortuna, the residents were excited to see the men running through their town. The cities fire siren rang in the air to alert the residents. The businesspersons of Fortuna had offered a prize of $100 to the runner that entered the town limit first.

From Orick to Klamath, the runners had to twist and turn through the obstacles of road construction. The cooler weather was refreshing but also caused the men to become dirty, but they raced with determination.

On June 20th, the marathon had reached Crescent City. Mad Bull was 6 miles ahead of Flying Cloud. After many more miles, the runners stayed in place as they ran up the treacherous hills next to the Smith River, up steep inclines around turns and down steep grades the trekked on.

Arriving in Grants Pass, Mad Bull won the race. He crossed the finish line in 7 days, 12 hours and 34 minutes. His grand winnings were $1,325.

The main goal of the race was an effort to publicize and bring attention to the "Redwood Empire" and to the new highway to promote travel to areas seeking more tourism. As hoped, the event had brought attention to the newly renovated road. Reporters were in full force throughout the race documenting the excitement

The race was not only a success for Mad Bull but for the tourism trade of Northern California.

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