Tarzan Brown

Tarzan Brown

From WikiRun

Jump to: navigation, search
Ellison "Tarzan" Brown
Event marathon
Nationality United States
PR Mar - 2.27.29 (1940)
Born September 22, 1914[1] at Potter Hill, RI
Died August 23, 1975 at Westerly, RI[2]

Ellison Myers Brown (1914 - 1975), widely known as Tarzan Brown, was a two-time winner of the Boston Marathon in 1936 (2:33:40) and 1939 (2:28:51). A member of the Narragansett tribe, he also participated in the 1936 Summer Olympics in Berlin. He was scheduled to participate in the 1940 Summer Olympics in Helsinki, but these were canceled due to the outbreak of World War II.



Tarzan Brown won the Boston Marathon in 1936 and 1939.[3] He took off so fast in the 1936 Boston marathon that the press followed the second runner, John A. Kelley, until the 20 mile mark where Kelley caught up to Tarzan. As Kelley overtook Tarzan--an amazing feat given the steady record break pace Tarzan had set--Kelley patted Tarzan on the back. What followed was a struggle between Tarzan, who took the lead on the downhills, and Kelley, who took the lead on the uphills, until finally Tarzan took the lead again to win the race. This struggle inspired reporter Jerry Nason to name the last Newton hill Heartbreak hill because Tarzan "broke Kelley's heart."[3]

In the 1939 Boston Marathon, Brown was the first runner to break the 2:30 mark for the marathon. After the 17-mile mark in this race he also broke every checkpoint record. In 1939, Brown entered two different 26.2-mile races within 24 hours of one another, and he won both races.[4]

in 1940, he did not finish the Boston Marathon, which was won by the Canadian, Gérard Côté. Côté broke Brown’s course record, but in the next month, at the Lawrence, MA to Salisbury Beach, NH marathon, Brown ran his career best time, defeating Côté and the top four finishers from the 1940 Boston, finishing in 2-27:29.6, a new American record for the marathon. He did not retire, finishing Boston in 1943 and 1946, but he was never again of international caliber.

Tarzan was born and raised in poverty on a Narragansett reservation. In addition to running, he worked as a stone mason and a shellfisherman. He married Ethel Wilcox Brown and had four children. He was killed in 1975 when a van hit him outside a bar in Westerly, Rhode Island.[3]


  • "The economy in these depression times provided little for most Americans and nothing for Indians. They were a conquered people living on the margin... Ellison Myers Brown, born on the margin, saw running as his only way out of poverty." -- Tom Derderian[5]
  • "Tarzan ran against people, not against numbers. He probably could have broke other records, but I never pushed him. When you're in a race you don't go out for records, you go out to win." -- Tippy Salerno[6]
  • Brown was inducted into the RRCA Hall of Fame in 1973.

See also

External links


  1. Wilson, David Gary. Legend of Tarzan Brown: A Native American Hero. Retrieved on 2007-03-18.
  2. Ellison Myers 'Tarzan' Brown aka Deerfoot. Notable Rhode Islanders publisher = Quahog.org. Retrieved on 2007-03-18.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Ward, Michael (2006-06-05). Ellison "Tarzan" Brown: The Narragansett Indian Who Twice Won the Boston Marathon. McFarland & Company. ISBN 0786424168. 
  4. Ellison Myers 'Tarzan' Brown. Native American Sport Council. Retrieved on 2007-03-18.
  5. Derderian, Tom (February 1996). The Boston Marathon: The History of the World's Premier Running Event. Human Kinetics Publishers. ISBN 0880114797. 
  6. Rodriguez, Bill. "The Best Racer of All", Providence Journal-Bulletin, 1981-04-19. Retrieved on 2007-03-18.