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Tarzan Brown

Full name: Ellison Myers "Tarzan" Brown
Other name(s): Deerfoot
Gender: Male
Height: 5-6.5 (170 cm)
Weight: 139 lbs (63 kg)
Born: September 22, 1914 in Potter Hill, Rhode Island, United States
Died: August 23, 1975 in Westerly, Rhode Island, United States
Country: USA United States
Sport: Athletics


Tarzan Brown was one of the 300 surviving Narragansett Indian descendants who had joined King Philip, the Wampanoag chief who fought the whites in the 17th century and forced them to abandon the frontier. Brown grew up in a large, very poor family. He and his six siblings lived in a small, ramshackle hut outside of Westerly, Rhode Island. His Narragansett tribal name was Deerfoot for his running prowess, but his nickname was Tarzan because of his impressive build and because he enjoyed swinging from tree branches as a boy.

Tarzan Brown ran his first important race in 1933 at the Boston Marathon, finishing 32nd. After repeating that finish in 1934, he expected better results in 1935. But the race was only two days after his mother's death and he ran in a shirt made from one of her dresses. His shoes fell apart at 21 miles, and he finished barefoot in 13th place. But by 1936, he was well known, and was sponsored by the Tercentenary Committee of Providence. Able to train without working or financial worries, Brown won the 1936 Boston Marathon by almost two minutes, leading at all checkpoints. The victory qualified him for the 1936 U.S. Olympic team. At Berlin, Brown was injured with a hernia, but he started the marathon and ran with the leaders for 30 km., although he failed to finish.

Later in 1936, Tarzan Brown won the venerable Port Chester marathon in 2-36:56.7. On the next day, 12 October 1936, he won a second marathon in as many days, winning the New England Marathon Championship in Manchester, New Hampshire. Brown did not fare as well in 1937, racing poorly at Boston and finishing 31st. The next year was even worse, as he finished the 1938 Boston Marathon in 51st place, running only 3-38:59. But he did finish the year by winning the AAU 25 kilometre title. And at the AAU Championships in Yonkers in November, he led for 15 miles, only to fail to finish with abdominal cramps.

In 1939, Brown fully regained his previous form, winning Boston in 2-28:51 for a new course and American record and the first time 2½ hours had been bettered on the Boston course. But in 1940, he did not finish the most important American marathon, which was won by the Canadian, Gerard 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 Brown made his living as a stonemason, and settled near his boyhood home in Charleston, Rhode Island. He died in 1975 when he was struck by a van while he was walking along the street.

Personal Best: Mar – 2-27:29 (1940).


Games Age City Sport Event Team NOC Rank Medal
1936 Summer 21 Berlin Athletics Men's Marathon United States USA AC DNF

Men's Marathon

Games Age City Sport Country Phase Unit Rank
1936 Summer 21 Berlin Athletics United States Final Standings AC DNF
id: 78,159