Ed Whitlock

A Brief Chat with . . .

Ed Whitlock
by Amby Burfoot <javascript:popUp('/bio/0,5040,23,00.html')>

One could argue that 74-year-old Canadian Ed Whitlock is the greatest
marathoner of all time. At last September's Scotiabank Toronto
Whitlock ran 2:54:49, a performance that scores higher than any other
on the
new age-graded tables of the World Masters Athletics association. (You
find a calculator here <http://www.panix.com/~elflord/wava2.html&gt;
http://www.panix.com/~elflord/wava2.html). In 2003, at the same event,
Whitlock had become the first over-70 runner to go sub-3:00 in the
when he ran 2:59:10. He was already the oldest man to have broken 3:00,
after his 2:52:50 in Columbus in 2000, 128 days shy of his 70th
This weekend, Whitlock takes aim on his third-straight sub-3:00 in
He also holds all 70+ world records for track and road events from 5000
meters up. Whitlock, a retired mining engineer who lives in Milton,
is originally from Surbiton, England and was the 1951 London University
three-mile champion with a 14:54.

Runner's World Daily: What do you think is the secret to your success?
Ed Whitlock: I think it's the ability to absorb a fair amount of
mileage in
my training. And that's probably genetic. I had an uncle who lived to
ripe old age of 107. The mileage I've done in the past few years is
something I built up to gradually. I was very conscious about not
making big
leaps in my training. I was also conscious about keeping the speed
relatively slow. I shuffle along to reduce the impact, rather than
I don't know what the relative importance of these things is, but the
mileage is what has turned me into a marathoner. I used to be a middle
distance runner.

RWD: Is it true that you run three hours a day?
EW: That's been my basic routine the last several years. I go over to
Evergreen Cemetery a few blocks from here and run loops around
one-third miles, or one-fourth miles--for about three hours. But one of
quirks is that I don't count the loops or try to record my times for
loops. I don't really know how far or fast I've gone, though it's
around nine minutes per mile [which means his basic workout is a
every day]. At the end, I'm tired but not exhausted. I'm always
that I'm going to have to go out and do the same thing the next day. I
say that this routine is a panacea. I can't guarantee that it would
work for
anyone else. But it seems to work for me.

RWD: And you do it day after day?
EW: I generally do it seven days a week when I'm in good training. I
mean, I
don't do it 365 days a year or anything like that. But I sometimes do
it up
to 21 days in a row. I just completed three weeks like that to get
ready for
the Toronto Marathon again. But the last two days, I've taken off
I've got a painful big toe, and I want to get rid of the pain before I
to the marathon.

RWD: How do you stay motivated?
EW: I'm motivated to run good times in the marathon. It's certainly not
I get a runner's high from my workouts. They're actually quite a bit of
drudge. Almost as soon as I get started on a run, I'm looking forward
when it will be over. I guess we all choose our own poison. I couldn't
afford to waste time like this if I weren't retired from full-time
work. The
workouts take a fair slice out of my days.


  • RWD: From what I've heard, you're not a big believer in any particular
    or stretching or strengthening routine. Is that right?
    EW: Right. I don't do anything special. I suppose my normal diet is
    heavy in carbohydrates and to some extent I load up a little extra the
    couple of days before the marathon. But that's about all. In fact,
    no part of my program that's particularly scientific. I don't map out a
    training scheme with different elements on a day by day basis. It's all
    basic. I'm not particularly careful about what I eat, and I don't take
    supplements of any kind. You wouldn't compare my program in any way to
    kinds of things someone like Paula Radcliffe does. I suppose I did some
    stretching and strength training back in my university days, but not

    RWD: How was your spring marathon in Rotterdam this year? That was the
    where the Dutch came up with a 70+ plus guy who had run 3:02 and he was
    supposed to be a challenger to you, right?
    EW: That's right. They made quite a big deal about it. They treated us
    well. I don't think of myself as an overly competitive guy, but I
    went over to Rotterdam with the idea that I had to beat Mr. Ruter [Joop
    Ruter]. I have an unhealthy fear of embarrassing myself in races. I
    like it when I don't perform the way I think I should. I don't mind
    beaten by someone who's better than me, but I always want to get the
    out of myself. Anyway, I got under three hours again, and he didn't
    have a
    very good race. He ran about 3:12. Now he's coming over to Toronto to
    me on my home course, and I haven't heard anything about what kind of
    he's in. But I told the Rotterdam race organizer that I'd take him over
    see Niagara Falls a couple of days before the marathon here.

    RWD: You've broken three hours the last two years in Toronto. How are
    feeling about this year?
    EW: My shorter summer races weren't as fast as last year, but I think
    because I lost some good training time after my spring marathon. I
    two colds, and they both knocked me out for a while. The last three
    were good though. I feel like I got back on the horse. Still, we all
    face a
    statute of limitations, don't we? Something leaks out of your
    over time, and you can only do so much to hold onto it (Update, Monday
    afternoon this week: "My legs are awfully stiff right now. I'm hoping
    all psychosomatic. I ran two tuneup races the weekend before this
    weekend, a
    5-K in 19:03 and a 10-K in 39:30. All things considered, I'd say the
    was about a minute slower than last year. That would put me about four
    minutes slower over a full marathon. It's going to be tough. I'm going
    have to run cautiously this weekend. I'm hoping to go out at just under
    three-hour pace, and then not to drift off it. I won't be able to run
    as ambitiously as last year").

    RWD: How do you react when people tell you that you're an inspiration?
    EW: I hear that quite a bit, and, frankly, I don't know how to respond
    it. I get a bit embarrassed by it. I would like to think that I can
    some people realize that we don't have to age and fade away as rapidly
    as it
    has been made out to us. It's important not to stop. I had a knee
    just after my 70th birthday, and it took me two years to get back to
    where I
    was. That was a long tough struggle. I had to stay patient. But I
    showed that we can still accomplish a lot if we keep active and stick
  • awesome performances.

    Not sure I am up to running for 3 hours a day around a graveyard - I am hoping to spend less time in there:-)))
  • fascinating - thanks Spud.
  • Thanks, Spud. Interesting reading.

    I know several people who say things like "you don't get stiff/slow down, etc because you get old, you get stiff because you don't do things to stop it happening."

    Just goes to show.
  • HillyHilly ✭✭✭
    What a guy! Thanks Spud.
  • Absorbing stuff there. Even though Ed is exceptional we can draw inspiration from his interview.
    Thankyou Spud!
  • Wow - great stuff!
  • a testament to base training?
    now to find a spare 3 hours in the day

    (im a psychotic loop kinda gal myself)
  • Thanks for that Spud
    How are you?
    (I wondered where you'd got to !)
  • Tom.Tom. ✭✭✭
    Ed Whitlock - geriatric genius. Inspirational
  • 74 is hardly geriatric!
  • cealceal ✭✭✭
    Thanks Spud, I had read a shortened version of this interview in an UK magasine, so it was good to have extra information and other questions which I wanted to ask him because the information wasn't there.

    Spud, Not sure if you will pick this up but I hope you had a Very Happy Birthday on 22nd, my computer was crashed and I was very frustrated not to have been able to send you greetings.
  • SivSiv ✭✭✭
    Spud, thanks for posting this. Whitlock sounds an amazing character though I must admit I can't see the appeal of running round a graveyard either. I thought it was sad that he found running "a bit of a drudge". Perhaps he would enjoy it more if he found some new routes?
  • Hi Peeps!

    Goslo, I sent you an email ages ago.

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