Ronald MacDonald (athlete)

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Ronald J. MacDonald
MacDonald-Evan Nappen,Esq. Collection.jpg
Born (1874-06-13)June 13, 1874
Antigonish, Nova Scotia
Occupation Athlete, Runner, Physician

Ronald MacDonald (Ronald John MacDonald; March 30, 1874 - September 3, 1947) was a Canadian runner and winner of the second Boston Marathon in 1898.

Early life[edit]

MacDonald was born in Antigonish, Nova Scotia.

First marathon[edit]

On April 19, 1898, Ronald MacDonald joined 25 other runners in Ashland at the start line of the Boston Marathon. He was 23 years old and a student at Boston College. He was 5’6” and weighed 142 lb (64 kg), and had curly light hair. It was his first marathon and he raced in bicycle shoes. MacDonald ran the race conservatively waiting for the leaders to fall off the pace. Till the half-way mark, he raced 2-3 miles (4.8 km) behind the leaders, then he started pushing the pace. He chased Hamilton Gray, the New York cross-country champion, through the downhills in the later part of the race and passed him in the last couple of miles. MacDonald ran the whole way without taking any fluids. He ended up finishing in 2:42, the fastest of 15 finishers, three minutes faster than Gray, 13 minutes faster than the previous year’s time, and a time considered a world best at the time for a distance of about 25 miles (40 km). MacDonald and Gray shook hands after the race.

Olympic representation[edit]

Ronald MacDonald represented the United States of America, because Canada did not yet have an Olympic team, at the 1900 Olympic Summer Games held in Paris, France. MacDonald ran the marathon, but finished the last of 7 finishers. He complained that the top 3 runners, who were French, had cut the course, and that only he and an American actually completed the whole course.

In 1901, MacDonald returned to the Boston Marathon with confidence stating that he would win and break the record of Jack Caffery, another Canadian, who had run 2:39:44 the previous year. MacDonald joined 37 other runners that day and ran as part of the top 4 for most of the race. Unfortunately, MacDonald was seized with cramps and had to retire from the race, reported to be due to a sponge soaked with chloroform he unknowingly accepted from a spectator.[1]

MacDonald returned to the Boston Marathon in 1902. He and Sammy Mellor were favoured, although Mellor had beaten MacDonald by 10 seconds in the previous year’s Thanksgiving Day 20-mile (32 km) race in Hamilton, Ontario. MacDonald and Mellor ran side by side in Boston until the 12th mile. Unfortunately, after the half-way mark, in the Newton Hills, MacDonald had difficulties, walked for a while and retired from the race.

In 1905, MacDonald was a handler for Boston Marathon runner Robert Fowler who ended up finishing in 3rd. Fowler blamed MacDonald for advising him to stay with Olympic gold medallist Tom Hicks who ended up having a bad day.[citation needed]

Enrollment in university[edit]

MacDonald returned to Nova Scotia in 1901 where he enrolled at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish. He continued winning many races and setting Canadian and World Records. In 1902, he organized the first indoor meet ever held in Eastern Canada. MacDonald also raced in the meet winning the 3-mile (4.8 km) race over John Lordon, Ireland’s national champion. In 1903, he beat the winner of the 1899 Boston Marathon, Larry Brignolia, in a 5-mile (8.0 km) race. Later that year, he entered medical school and he would become a successful doctor practicing in Newfoundland and in Nova Scotia.

In 1910, Ronald MacDonald raced and won his last marathon in St. John’s, Newfoundland. Later, MacDonald was part of the original inductees in the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame for Track and Field in 1979.


  • Winner of 135 prizes for running
  • Winner of 1st Newton 1-mile (1.6 km) handicap run - 1896
  • Winner of 7-Mile U.S. Cross-country Championship – 1897
  • Second in the N. E. A. A. A. U. championship 3-mile (4.8 km) run – 1897
  • Winner – Newton 1-mile (1.6 km) handicap race - 1898
  • Winner – 3-mile (4.8 km) New England Championship - 1898
  • World Record in 11-Mile Cross-country – 1898
  • Winner B.A.A. 10-mile (16 km) Cross-country – 1898
  • Winner 2nd Boston Marathon – 2:42 – 1898
  • Canadian Record – 3-mile (4.8 km)
  • Canadian Record – 5-mile (8.0 km)
  • World Record – indoor 1-mile (1.6 km)
  • Winner St. John’s Marathon - 1910

See also[edit]



External links[edit]