Sockalexis was born on January 11, 1892, in Old Town, Maine, a member of the Penobscot Indian Nation. His older cousin was baseball player Louis Sockalexis. Andrew Sockalexis grew up on Indian Island, Maine. He was ten years old when he started to run. His father had built a track and encouraged Andrew to run. As he grew older, Andrew found other routes and trails to run on. Many times he would run four or five times around an island trail that he trained on. At a very young age, Andrew was determined to become a marathon runner. Andrew ran all throughout the year. In the winter months he would run on the river ice with spiked running shoes and the rest of the year he trained on the numerous trails that spanned his island home. Andrew was timed at thirteen minutes for a trial that was the distance of 2.7 miles.
As a young man, Andrew had training from Tom Daley of Bangor and Arthur Smith of Orono. Tom Daley trained Andrew until he was 18 years old. In 1911, Arthur Smith, the track coach of the University of Maine, prepared Andrew for the United States Olympic Team tryouts held at Harvard University. He qualified with eleven other runners for the marathon. Andrew participated in the 1912 Olympics hosted by Sweden. The United States marathon team was sponsored by the Dorchester AA team. Andrew was quoted by a newspaper that at all times he was running not only for the United States but also for his own people, the Penobscot. Coach Smith stated to the newspapers that the United States was very confident in their chances of winning the Olympic marathon. Andrew finished fourth place with a time of 2:42:07, five minutes behind the winner and only seconds behind the third-place finisher. Harold Reynolds, the Boston Post Commissioner, stated that Andrew finished strong and running like the champion he should have been. When Andrew returned home from the Olympics, he received a royal welcome as though he had won the marathon. He was invited to run in many races around New England. Andrew completed the Boston Marathon in 1912 and 1913, finishing second both times.
Andrew married a fellow Penobscot, Pauline Shay from his reservation village at Indian Island, Old Town, Maine.
Later Years and Death
In 1916, Andrew ran his last race. It was a 15-mile race from Old Town to Bangor. Andrew was suffering from a severe cold and complained of chest pains. Against his doctor’s warnings, Andrew insisted on running the race. Andrew ran with the bad cold and ahead of the field of runners from the start of the race. As they came to the 12 mile marker, Andrew was ahead of his friend Clarence DeMar by a couple of hundred yards and was easily going to win the race. Andrew crossed the finish line in Bangor and as he stopped running, he started to cough up blood and collapsed. Soon after the race, Andrew was diagnosed with Tuberculosis (TB), a disease that had plagued his family. Andrew was very sick for three years and in the summer of 1919, he died in the town of South Paris, Maine at the age of 27.
- Thomas C. Bennett. "An rew Sockalexis, Olympic Marathoner from Maine" (PDF). pdf. Retrieved 2016-03-22.
- "Penobscot Culture& History of the Nation".
- "Penobscot Culture & History of the Nation".