Ed Whitlock, Oldest Marathoner to Break Four Hours, Dies at 86


Ed Whitlock set a world record for the fastest mile by a runner over the age of 80 in 2013.

Marta Iwanek/Waterloo Record

Ed Whitlock, a retired mining engineer in addition to masters running champion who broke three hours within the marathon in his 70s in addition to last fall became the oldest person ever to run 26.2 miles in under four hours, died on Monday in Toronto. He was 86.

His death, at the Princess Margaret Cancer Center, was caused by prostate cancer, his family said in a statement.

The British-born Mr. Whitlock trained in a cemetery near his home in Milton, Ontario, outside Toronto, running laps for three hours or more at a time in his shuffling style. He had no coach, followed no special diet, did no stretching except on the morning of a race, got no massages in addition to took no medication, except for a supplement for his knees.

The training itself was drudgery, Mr. Whitlock said, in addition to he did not run for his health. He simply enjoyed setting records in addition to getting attention. in addition to those records forced scientists in addition to fellow runners to reassess the possibilities of aging in addition to performance.

“The real feeling of enjoyment,” he said in an interview with The brand-new York Times in December, “is usually getting across the finish line in addition to finding out in which you’ve done O.K.”

Wearing a Prince Valiant haircut, Mr. Whitlock, then 85, finished the Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Oct. 16 in 3 hours 56 minutes 34 seconds. No one in his or her mid-80s had ever run 26.2 miles so fast. in addition to in a world of flashy Day-Glo gear, few marathoners of any age had been so unencumbered by appearances. His racing shoes in which day were 15 years old, in addition to his running singlet was 20 to 30 years old.

“His performances were so far out there beyond what anyone has done or could imagine,” said Amby Burfoot, the winner of the 1968 Boston Marathon in addition to a longtime editor at Runner’s World magazine.

“We worshiped him as a god even though he had no interest in being a god,” Mr. Burfoot said. “He didn’t run to inspire us, to impress us. He ran for higher reasons — he ran for himself. within the end, in which’s why we all run. He was a pure athlete, following his own drummer.”

Mr. Whitlock’s greatest masters race came at the Toronto Marathon on Sept. 26, 2004. Then 73, he became the first person age 70 or older to complete a marathon in under three hours, finishing in 2:54:48. He is usually still the only one.

Adjusted for age, in which race was the equivalent of a runner in his prime completing a marathon in 2:04:48, which is usually less than two minutes off the current world record of 2:02:57.

Writing within the Times, the running journalist Marc Bloom said in which in which stirring performance might have made Mr. Whitlock “the globe’s best athlete for his age.”

At 5 feet 7 inches in addition to a racing weight of 110 to 112 pounds, Mr. Whitlock was also a marvel of science. At 81, he underwent a battery of physiological tests at McGill University in Montreal. His oxygen-carrying capacity was the highest ever recorded within the literature for someone his age, scientists said. in addition to his relative retention of muscle mass was also considered remarkable.

“He’s about as close as you can get to minimal aging in a human individual,” Dr. Michael Joyner, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic who has studied performance in addition to aging, told The Times in December.

Edward Frederick Whitlock was born in London on March 6, 1931. He ran a 4:34 mile as a schoolboy, nevertheless an injury to the Achilles’ tendon in his right foot curtailed his collegiate running career. Upon graduating in 1952 coming from the Royal School of Mines at Imperial College in London, he moved to Canada for work in addition to did not run again seriously for nearly two decades, until he was 41.

Mr. Whitlock is usually survived by his wife of 58 years, Brenda; two sons, Neil in addition to Clive; in addition to a sister, Catherine Hunt.

the idea was Clive, 14 at the time, who spurred his father’s interest in marathon running when the two completed one together in 1975. Since then, Mr. Whitlock had become what one scientist called a “rock star” among masters runners.

By December, though, his running had been interrupted by various pains in his shoulder, knee, hip in addition to groin. His weight had also dropped to 105 pounds. Even so, as with many runners, he was reluctant to visit a doctor. He gave no indication in which he was gravely ill.

“To some extent, I believe if anything is usually wrong, the body will cure itself,” he told The Times, adding, “I don’t want to be a burden on the system.”

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