Octogenarian marathon record runner & medical marvel dies aged 86
Whitlock set more than 20 age-group records, from the 15,000 meters up through to the marathon, during his life. A family statement confirmed he had lost his battle with prostate cancer.
“The family of Ed Whitlock is saddened to report his passing on March 13, 2017, of prostate cancer at the Princess Margaret Cancer Centre. His 86th birthday was on March 6,” the statement read.
“His wisdom, guidance and strength of character will be greatly missed by his wife Brenda, sons Neil and Clive, and sister Catherine. The family requests privacy at this time.”
Just in from @RunCRS: Ed Whitlock has passed away from prostate cancer at 86. Rest in peace, running king.— iRunNation (@iRunNation) March 13, 2017
Whitlock was regarded as an athletic phenomenon for his string of astounding running feats, including in October 2016, when he became the oldest person to run a marathon in under four hours. He completed the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 3 hours 56 minutes, 34 seconds, at the age of 85.
Born in Greater London, UK, Whitlock emigrated to Canada in 1952 and settled north of Toronto. Although an avid runner in his youth, he did not run first marathon until the age of 44 in 1975.
Marathoner Ed Whitlock has died at 86. His 2:54 time at the age of 73 converts to a world record 1:59 marathon on an age adjusted scale. pic.twitter.com/2BQHeS3ZhX— Darren Rovell (@darrenrovell) March 14, 2017
What was perhaps more impressive about Whitlock was the science behind his incredible running ability, for which he was dubbed a medical marvel by professionals.
Dr. Michael Joyner, a researcher at the Mayo Clinic who has studied performance and aging, commented that Whitlock was “about as close as you can get to minimal aging in a human individual.”
A man of small stature, Whitlock was 5 feet 7 inches (170cm) tall and weighed a maximum 112lb (50.8kg). However, in his 80s he was reported to have more or less the same muscle mass as he had in his 20s, along with an enormous oxygen-carrying capacity.
Canadian marathoner Ed Whitlock, who ran 3:56:33 for the marathon at 85 years old, has passed away.— Chris Chavez (@ChrisChavez) March 13, 2017
He turned 86 on March 6. pic.twitter.com/AgnZon6Mzr
Whitlock’s training regime was devoid of any of the high-tech, modern-day frills usually associated with endurance training. Rather, his routine included running laps for three to three-and-a-half hours at a time at the Milton Evergreen Cemetery near his home, without heart straps or ice baths, or even timing his progress.
Such a routine saw him run a sub-three-hour marathon – 2 hour 54 minutes – in his 70s, becoming the first septuagenarian to do so. Just months before his passing, Whitlock expressed vague hope of running into his ninth decade.
“We’ll see if I’m running when I’m 90,” Whitlock said in a December 2016 New York Times article.
“You never really know if you’ve run your last race or not. I think I do have longevity in my genes.” An uncle lived to 107, he said.
“But you never know, you might get hit by a bus.”