Ed Whitlock
Photo: John MacMillan.

The Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon is sneaking up and today, one Canadian running icon announced that he’s running all 42.2K of it. The much adored masters record setter, Ed Whitlock, 85, has just decided that he’s going to get another marathon under his belt– and hopefully in doing so, he’ll add another record to his rapidly growing collection. This summer and early fall, Whitlock had been toying with the idea of merely running the half-marathon in Toronto but as he just recently reached a significant point in his training, he has decided to dive into the full marathon distance on Oct. 16. Here’s what he has to say about his plans for the Toronto race.

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Canadian Running: Let’s talk about your goals this fall at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. 

Ed Whitlock: My only real goal for the rest of this year is this race upcoming. I finally made up my mind to do the full instead of the half in the last couple of days. Yesterday, I finally managed to get up to a three-hour training run which is the first three-hour training run I’ve had in three years because of various issues I’ve had. Ideally, I would have hoped to have done a three hour training run a month ago– it’s a little late in the game. I’m a broken down middle distance runner and I’ve made myself into a marathon runner. The thing that has worked for me before is to run every day for three hours day after day. I’ve only just got there now. I know I wont be as good as I was when I ran my ideal race when I was 73. I was really fit then. I’m not as fit as that now.

CR: Let’s talk about those long runs then. What makes you happy on those long runs and what are you thinking?

EW: When will it be over? It’s just like the marathon: When will it be over? I find if I do a set course, I’m always getting into competitions with myself going “Oh my God, I’m a minute slower than I was yesterday.” The other thing on the road is that you have to cross into sections where you never know what drivers are going to do. Some are ultra considerate and others are ultra aggressive so I’ve taken to running in circles around the cemetery. I don’t count the laps and I don’t time the laps– I just go around and around and around trying to stay in the shade and running for the amount of time that is my objective.

Yesterday’s objective was to get to three hours which was a real struggle but I managed that. I purposely try to not put any pressure on myself. I try to just run slowly and shuffle along—not bound along like I do when I race. I think I have a fair amount of natural speed so I don’t need to work on that aspect but I need to work on my endurance.

CR: Talk to us about past marathon goals.

EW: I realized when I was in my late sixties that nobody over 70 had run a sub three-hour marathon and I was running in the 2:50s. I thought “Well, I can do it if I start to work a bit more.” Then when I got to 70, I tried it and it didn’t work. I ran the marathon in London. Ont. and I was just over three hours. Then I got hurt when I was 70 after and I didn’t run another marathon. When I finally got over those knee issues I ran again. I finally broke that jinx when I was 72– but I only just did it. It was 2:59:10. I was in bad shape when I crossed the finish line. The following year, I was nine minutes faster and I felt great when I finished.

CR: You must be excited now to run the marathon again.

EW: I’m not an excitable person. I’m more apprehensive really than excited. I’m sure I can run a marathon. The issue is if you don’t get the pacing right. It also depends what the weather is. The wind would be a bad thing for me. It would affect me the most. I’m not good at running hills or against wind. I can handle heat, but not wind. So you have to weigh those things before and hopefully you get it right. But if you don’t set an aggressive enough time, you don’t get the record you want. That’s the risk you take. My aim will be to run sub four but whether that’s really going to happen or whether that’s realistic or not, I’ll find out halfway through.

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