Marathon effort to complete big race

OLYMPICS: Better late than never. Right?

Well, Shizo Kanakuri did take 54 years to finish an Olympic marathon.

I am not kidding either ... the Japanese runner took precisely 54 years, 8 months, 6 days, 5 hours, 32 minutes and 20.3 seconds to finish a race he started during the Stockholm Olympic Games of 1912.

And no, he didn't get lost either. It was hot on the day of the race and somewhere around the 27km mark, Kanakuri disappeared.

It is believed he lost consciousness and was taken in by a local family who took care of him.

Kanakuri's withdrawal from the race was hardly unusual as only half the 68 starters actually finished because of the heat.

What was unusual was that he didn't notify the event officials and he was listed as a missing person in Sweden until 1966 when a TV reporter found him ... back in Japan.

It seems he believed his actions had let his country down so he sailed home the day after the race and he was too ashamed to tell anyone he was leaving.

There's a happy ending, though.

In 1967, when Kanakuri was 75, he accepted an invitation to return to Stockholm and complete his run as the Swedish National Olympic Committee wanted him to participate in the 55th anniversary celebrations of the 1912 Olympics.

Travelling to the Scandinavian country was a lot easier this time for him.

It had taken him 18 days after travelling by ship and Trans Siberian Railway in 1912, a journey, which included Kanakuri running around each station the train stopped at.

When he got to Stockholm this time around, Kanakuri finally finished what he had started all those years ago.

After he finished, his time was read out and, according to reports, the elderly racer was not lost for words.

"It was a long trip. Along the way, I got married, had six children and 10 grandchildren," he said.

Kanakuri died in November 1984. He was 93, but surely his record for being the slowest Olympian will never be broken.

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