Inducted in 1956
Winner of the Boston Marathon record four times
Winner of Yonkers Marathons
Lou Marsh Trophy
Lionel Conacher trophy
Inducted into the Canadian Olympic Sports Hall of Fame
Not many Canadians can quantifiably measure their lengthy career. Marathon runner Gérard Côté can measure his in miles. Indeed, he covered more than 100,000 of them by taking part in an astonishing 264 races, 75 of which were marathons. One of eleven children of a St. Hyacinthe, Quebec, family, Côté started out to be a boxer, but, while training in an effort to build power in his legs, his love of road work prompted him to abandon any ideas of fighting. Instead, he turned to long-distance running. It probably was a wise move because his slim, lithe legs carried him to international fame. He won his first of four Boston Marathons in 1940. Côté, who enjoyed big steaks and fat cigars, trained and competed unadorned by a team of trainers or coaches. He showed up that year with seventeen dollars in his pocket and no sponsor other than his father, and he ran on his own experience and intuition. This is what had him win the world's most famous long-distance race, faster than any human ever had before. He won again in 1942, 1943 and 1948. Côté won three U.S. Amateur Athletic Union marathon titles and three Yonkers marathon events on his way to a total of 112 career victories, 56 seconds, and 26 third place finishes. It was in his Yonkers victory of 1940 that Côté established himself as a sportsman above and beyond an athletic phenomenon: He was running smoothly and leading the field, easily within reach of the record time. As he hit the gates of the race track and the final lap, a young woman in a car urged him to go on and break the record. She was the widow of the great Pat Dengis, the winner for the three previous years who held that record. Dengis died tragically in an accident that year. In her admiration of a great athlete, Mrs. Dengis encouraged Côté to break her husband's record. In return, Côté slowed down. He won the race but deliberately refused to break the record in honour of his great opponent. He did have a disappointing 17th place finish due to a leg cramp at the 1948 Olympic Games in London. But of the loss, he, in a characteristically philosophical and charming way, once said at a banquet dinner in his honour, "We must mix victory with defeat. If you have salad that is all one thing, all lettuce, it is not good. Victory always is flat. You must mix it with defeat to gain the flavour." In 1958, two years after he had retired from competitive running, Côté set a world record for eight miles on snowshoes.