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Wearing the Maple Leaf

“To describe the agony of a marathon to someone who’s never run it is like trying to explain colour to someone who was born blind” – Jerome Drayton

Canada Day and its fireworks, colours of red and white has passed. But with patriotic pride still simmering in our minds I wanted to write briefly about a Canadian marathoner who blazed across the world stage proudly wearing the maple leaf in the 1970s, leaving a legacy of wins and records, some of which still remain today.

I find it appropriate to remember this runner not only because he is Canadian, but also because he so often raced proudly in a singlet with a big red maple leaf on the front. Seems fittingly Canadian to me that he would race stoically with subtle red Canadian symbol that he stitched himself onto a homemade singlet. The runner is Canada’s marathon record holder, Jerome Drayton.

Jerome Drayton winning the 1977 Boston Marathon.
Jerome Drayton winning the 1977 Boston Marathon.

Like so many proud Canadians, Drayton was not actually born in Canada. He came into the world at the tail-end of the Second World War, on Jan. 10, 1945 in Bavaria, Germany.  He was born Peter Buniak and came to Toronto with his mother in the mid-1950s. Reportedly, the name he gave himself upon arriving in Canada was a mix of his two running heroes; Canadian former world record holder Harry Jerome and American Paul Drayton, a former world record holder in the 4x100m.

In the 1970s, Jerome went on to be ranked as the top marathoner in the world. He won the famous and informal world championship of marathons, the Fukuoka Marathon, in 1969, 1975, and 1976, as well as the Boston Marathon in 1977. Drayton also set the Canadian marathon record with his best time of 2:10:09 in 1975. Jerome Drayton’s record, although recently approached by current elite Canadian runners Reid Coolsaet, Eric Gillis and Dylan Wykes, has still not been broken.

Some of Drayton’s accomplishments
1969 Fukuoka Marathon Fukuoka, Japan 1st 2:11:13
1975 Fukuoka Marathon Fukuoka, Japan 1st 2:10:09
1976 Olympic Games Montréal, 6th 2:13:30
1976 Fukuoka Marathon Fukuoka, Japan 1st 2:12:35
1977 Boston Marathon, 1st 2:14:46
1978 Commonwealth Games, Edmonton, 2nd 2:16:14
1979 National Capital Marathon Ottawa, 1st 2:18:05

I cannot call myself a successful marathoner or the fastest runner, but I have respect for those who have conquered pain and the hard miles of the marathon. Jerome Drayton may no longer be amongst the running ranks, but his memory and his record still remain with us.

Run on my friends.

Canadian Running magazine articles about Jerome Drayton

See you on the roads or in the blogopshere!

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