85-year-old Ed Whitlock breaks 4 hours in the marathon

Ed Whitlock runs through rain and win on Sunday at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon, where he set an age group world record. VICTOR SAILER

Wearing 15-year-old running shoes, Ed Whitlock raced through wind and rain on Sunday at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon to break the men’s 85–89 age group world record by more than 30 minutes. His 3:56:33 shattered the previous mark of 4:34:55, set in 2004.

After crossing the finish line, Whitlock, 85, of Milton, Ontario, told Canadian Running he thought he went out too fast in the opening miles and went through a bad patch at 25K, but he forged on with heavy legs to break the four-hour barrier.

“I was thinking that this was going to be an absolute disaster,” he said. “I was well under four-hour pace at that point.

Whitlock has been defying the aging athlete odds for decades. At 73, he ran 2:54 in the marathon - a time that runners half that age would consider a major achievement. He owns masters age group world records on the track and roads from distances of 1500 metres to the marathon.

Whitlock prefers to run around a cemetery near his home, where he keeps his training relatively slow. He raced in his younger days, but stopped in his 20s. He then began again in his 40s.

“I don’t follow what typical coaches say about serious runners. No physios, ice baths, massages, tempo runs, heart rate montors,” he told Runner’s World in 2010. “I have not strong objections to any of that, but I’m not sufficiently organised or ambitious to do all the things you’re supposed to do if you’re serious. The more time you spend fiddle-diddling with this and that, the less time there is to run or waste time in other ways.”