Ed Whitlock, the 85-year-old distance runner, shattered the world record for his age group at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday, crossing the tape in a remarkable 3 hours 56 minutes 38 seconds.
The previous record for runners in the 85-90 years old category was 4:34.55.
“I didn’t feel at all happy at 25K. I really was thinking that this was going to be an absolute disaster,” Whitlock told Canadian Running Magazine.
The resident of Milton, Ont., known as The Master, has owned no fewer than 36 world records on the road and the track, setting six of them at the Scotiabank Toronto marathon. That includes a pair of sub three-hour finishes in 2003 and 2004. According to his bio, he’s the only man in the world over 70 to come in under the three-hour mark.
“I don’t want to disgrace myself, I suppose,” Whitlock said of his race on Sunday.
When asked the age of his teal running singlet and scuffed running shoes, Whitlock said he couldn’t remember.
“They’re well-aged,” he said, prompting laughter.
Whitlock was hampered by injuries last year. “I keep inventing new ones over time,” Whitlock said before the race when asked the particulars of his injuries. “My chronic problem is my knees, somehow on occasion I get running in a long groove and they flare up and start to hurt, and the only thing I can do that seems to get rid of it is to take a rest.”
For the first time in two years, though, he was able to ramp up his mileage to three-hour runs. The extra work seemed to pay off.
Elsewhere at the marathon, the oldest record on Canada’s track and field books – Jerome Drayton’s 41-year-old mark – is another day older.
Eight weeks after his 10th-place finish at the Rio Olympics, Eric Gillis believed he had a decent shot at Drayton’s elusive mark. But the humidity, slick roads and nagging knee pain played havoc with his morning, and the Canadian finished fifth, more than two minutes off record pace.
The 36-year-old from Antigonish, N.S., knew by the 25-kilometre mark it wouldn’t be a record-breaking day.
“I couldn’t open up my stride after I got a sore knee,” Gillis said. “I was focused on getting that sorted out, then it was more just a comfort thing, I wanted my knee to feel better. It never did.
“Then the last 10K, was thinking ‘I’m not on pace for barely anything. And my knee hurts. I just want to get home.’ “But I’m glad I did this, it was a good learning experience,” he added. “It’s disappointing. Disappointing, but no regrets.”
He crossed in two hours 13 minutes 44 seconds to win the Canadian men’s title. Drayton’s record is 2:10.09. There was a bonus of $41,000 – $1,000 for every year the record has stood – for a record run.
Kenya’s Philemon Rono was first in 2 hours 8 minutes 27 seconds.
Krista DuChene of Brantford, Ont., who made her Olympic debut in Rio nine weeks ago, won the women’s Canadian title, and finished fifth over all in 2:34.02.
Rachel Hannah of Toronto was right behind her in sixth, while Dayna Pidhoresky of Tecumseh, Ont., was seventh.
“I really wanted this win, this was my year, with Rio and then deciding to do this,” DuChene said. “I wanted a national championship again. I knew with the conditions, that there’s no way fast times were going to happen, so it was all about being patient and using my marathon experience.”
Shure Demise of Ethiopia won the gold in 2:25.18.
Gillis and DuChene took a risk running two marathons just two months apart. But Gillis, whose 10th in Rio was Canada’s best Olympic finish since Drayton was sixth in 1976 in Montreal, said he’d do it again. Now, the two plan to take a well-earned rest. DuChene spoke dreamily about looking forward to eating pecan tarts and chocolate chip cookies.
The 39-year-old mother of three joined the chorus of angry voices about Athletics Canada’s tough marathon standards for the 2017 world championships announced a few days earlier. The women must run 2:29.50, prompting frustration among Canada’s best.
Sunday’s conditions, DuChene said, just weren’t conducive to fast times.
“I think this is a wakeup call for the harsh standards that were set. I was in easily 2:30 shape or faster,” DuChene said.
“Whether they’ll reconsider I don’t know, but it’s a little bit ridiculous that I was the first person and I didn’t even make the standard. I didn’t even make the B let alone the A, so that speaks for itself. Humidity is a silent killer.”
With a report from The Canadian PressReport Typo/Error