Home > The Scene

75-year-old stroke survivor makes inspiring return at TCS Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon

Ten months later, Alton Ellis conquered his race goal and came within 44 seconds of his personal best time

Photo by: Alton Ellis/Strava

Ten years ago, 75-year-old runner Alton Ellis of Toronto says he could not have dreamed of what he accomplished at Sunday’s TCS Toronto Waterfront Half-Marathon, or what he overcame to get there. Ten months after suffering a stroke, he was back at the race, and ran a time he is more than happy with.

Ellis came within 44 seconds of his time from 2019, finishing in 2:08-flat for second place in the men’s 75 to 79 age category. His goal was to beat his time of 2:16 from a half-marathon he ran in May.

“I planned to follow the 2:15 pace rabbit,” says Ellis. “I couldn’t find them at the start, so instead I followed the 2:10 rabbit. I guess I got a two-minute lead on the rabbit over the final six kilometres.”

When asked what the stroke has changed in his training, he pointed out that he has to be more attentive to his heart rate and pacing.

Ellis got a late start on running at age 68, after feeling envious about how much his running friends got to explore. “My wife, Moira, told me if I was going to get into running, I have to do it properly,” Ellis laughs.

In the fall of 2015, Ellis started the Learn to Run program at Toronto’s Rosedale Running Room. “I remember the first week we did one minute of walking and one minute of running, and it didn’t feel too bad,” says Ellis. “But the moment it doubled the following week, I didn’t realize what I was getting myself into.”

Ellis worked his way through the Running Room clinic system, completing his first marathon at age 70, in 2017.

His stroke, in January 2022, took him away from running for two months. At the time, Ellis had goals of completing Strava challenges for a half-marathon a month, and running 200 km in 30 days.

He was shocked at how quickly he was able to come back to running from his stroke: “I had surgery, then was hospitalized for a week, which resulted in me taking four weeks off from running,” he says. Ellis claims that he couldn’t have done it without the encouragement of his running friends and his family.

Alton Ellis (centre) and his running friends he met at the Rosedale Running Room. Photo: Alton Ellis/Facebook

The night before his surgery, Ellis’s friends from the Rosedale Run Club ran around Toronto’s Sunnybrook Hospital to wish him good luck. He looks back on this moment as something that inspired his comeback.

Ellis volunteers once a week at Toronto’s Evangel Hall Mission, a shelter located at Bathurst and Queen Streets that provides food, shoes, clothing and haircuts for the less fortunate.

Evangel Hall is one of the many charity partners affiliated with the TCS Toronto Waterfront Marathon. This year the shelter received more than $9,000 for its programs, which serve 120 Torontonians every day; through the race, Ellis personally raised $800.

If you would like to donate toward the Evangel Hall Mission, you can do so here.

Check out the latest buyer's guide:

The best winter running socks for 2024

Here you'll find the perfect pair for any and all winter running conditions