In typically modest fashion, Ed Whitlock described the scene at the finish of the Toronto Waterfront Marathon thus: “There was a lot of noise, yes.”
The 80-year-old London native and long-time Canadian resident ran a mind-boggling 3:15:53.9 on Oct. 16, and that noise you keep hearing is a needle stuck in a groove that repeats the words “world record” over and over.
The Association of Road Racing Statisticians (www.arrs.net) keeps track of single-age world records at several distances.
Whitlock, who, at 72, became the first man in recorded history to run a sub-3:00 marathon as a septuagenarian, shows up nine times on the marathon single-age list, starting when he was 68 and ran a 2:51:02.
He appears 11 times on the 15k list, and is in position to make it 12 times when he runs in the 36th annual Gazette Stockade-athon on Sunday.
Since he first ran the Stockade-athon in 2003, shortly after his historic 2:59:08, Whitlock has become a beloved figure at the 15k. He’ll have no shortage of fans rooting for him to run faster than 1:13:28, which would put him at the top of the 15k list for 80-year-olds.
“People ask me, ‘Is he coming?’ They want to shake his hand,” Stockade-athon race
director Vince Juliano said. “He’s been referred to as a person from another planet, because, the likes of him, we will not see again. It’s beyond comprehensible.”
The 80-year-old single-age 15k world record is held by Maurice Tarrant, another Canadian who posted his 1:13:28 in April of last year.
Whitlock, from Milton, just outside Toronto, ran a 1:06:46 at the Stockade-athon last year, giving him six age/gender-graded titles at the Stockade-athon over the course of eight years.
“I would hope I could beat Maurice’s time,” he said.
Two factors that don’t work in Whitlock’s favor are a shift on the race calendar that placed the Toronto Waterfront Marathon three weeks later than usual, giving him less time to recover for the Stockade-athon, and the fact that he doesn’t consider himself much of a hill runner.
The second half of the Stockade-athon course has two significant hills, on State Street and Bradley Street.
Based on his performance at the Toronto Waterfront, though, he’s in form to do better than 1:13.
“As usual, I did pretty good, but the marathon was on the 16th, so I imagine I’m going to be a little bit weary for that,” Whitlock said. “We’ll find out on State Street hill.”
At Toronto, Whitlock and the rest of the field endured a chilly day with strong winds.
By then, he had already moved to the top of the world leaderboard for 80-year-olds, having run a 3:25:50 at the Rotterdam Marathon in the Netherlands in April.
He wanted to bring his time down to 3:20 in Toronto, and was confident he could do so, except for the weather.
“It would’ve been a horror show, because the wind was something else. It died to a brisk breeze. There was a bit of apprehension, but it wasn’t as bad as we expected.”
Whitlock put himself in position to break his own record by snapping through the half- marathon in 1:37:38.
He augmented his good early work by latching on to a group that was on a 3:15 pace later.
Some doubt crept in at about 24 miles.
“At about 39k, which would be about 24, 25 miles, there’s a slight overpass up a bit of a hill, and my legs kind of gave up a little bit, and we were going against the wind,” Whitlock said. “I managed to struggle home and have a pretty good race.”
Whitlock doesn’t train by mileage, but instead does a number of loops for three hours and then calls it a day.
He said he got in about 20 such training runs in the month or so leading up to the Toronto Waterfront.
“My training is at a very slow pace to try to avoid getting hurt,” he said. “I find that by doing that, I can be fairly effective and can run for a long time, as long as I keep my speed down. If I get hurt, it tends to happen in a race.
“I don’t know how far I actually ran, I don’t take note of that, purposefully, so I don’t get into a competition with myself. That seems to work for me; I don’t know if it would work for anybody else.”
By now, Whitlock knows the Stockade-athon course as well as anyone.