Ed Whitlock’s sub-four-hour marathon on Sunday was one of the biggest stories out of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. The 85-year-old set a new benchmark in his age group breaking the previous men’s 85+ world record by almost 40 minutes thanks to his 3:56:33 clocking (3:56:38 gun time).
Less than two hours earlier, the top men’s marathon runner crossed the line in 2:08:27, which Philemon Rono managed despite suffering a head injury in warmup. Rono, a runner from Kenya, is only 25, 60 years younger than the legendary masters runner from Milton, Ont.
According to Alan Jones and World Masters Athletics, Whitlock’s age-graded time converts to a 2:08:57, which would have placed him second on Sunday. Simply, age-grading takes into account age and sex and compares that time against open division participants. The performance of older runners is adjusted to quicker times as most top open marathon times are run during a runner’s prime years.
The estimates of Whitlock’s age-graded time varies as different calculators can produce different equivalent times. Other calculators indicate his marathon is equivalent to approximately 2:20. Age-graded times are used for comparison and are not used to adjust runners’ times in results.
Whitlock’s run on Sunday was his first marathon in three years but he has been setting many records between then and now. This year alone, his marathon record aside, he has set world age group records in the half-marathon, 10,000m, 5,000m and mile. He’s the only person over 70 to have broken three hours in the marathon.
Short list of Whitlock’s marathon records over 70
Men’s 70 to 74 world record:
2:54:48 (4:08/km pace)
Men’s 75 to 79 world record:
3:04:54 (4:23/km pace)
Men’s 80 to 84 world record:
3:15:54 (4:38/km pace)
Men’s 85 to 89 world record:
3:56:33 (5:36/km pace)
The 85-year-old, who was a standout runner in his early years before leaving the sport and returning in his forties, averaged 5:36 per kilometre in the marathon on Sunday. Canadian Running was on-site for the race and caught up with Whitlock after the race.