Canadian running icon Ed Whitlock dies at 86

The Milton, Ont. running icon set multiple age group world records on the track as well as on the roads.

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon
Ed Whitlock
Photo: Matt Stetson.

Canadian Running is saddened to announce that Ed Whitlock has passed away at 86.

Whitlock was one of the world’s all-time great runners as he set dozens of masters world records during his lengthy and illustrious running career.

Whitlock has two sons, Neil and Clive. He is survived by his wife Brenda and his sister Catherine. Whitlock passed away at 4 a.m. EDT early Monday morning at Princess Margaret Cancer Centre in Toronto. He died from prostate cancer. He had turned 86 on March 6.

The Canadian running legend is notably the first, and only, person older than 70 to have broken 3:00 in the marathon. He ran 2:54:48 when he was 73.

He raced in November 2016 setting a 15K world record for men 85-89 at the Stockade-athon 15K Road Race. Prior to that, he bettered the men’s 85-89 world record in the marathon by more than 30 minutes running 3:56 at the 2016 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon last October. His final race came on Dec. 10 at London’s Richmond Park running a 7.67-mile event with his famed club, the Ranelagh Harriers.

“The most modest, droll, amiable and intelligent of all miraculous legends,” famed running historian and author Roger Robinson said describing Whitlock after the 15K in Schenectady, N.Y.

RELATED: Canadian Running‘s feature story on Ed Whitlock as seen in the January/February 2017 issue of the magazine.

It’s believed that Whitlock had not done much running in 2017 as he was nursing a shoulder injury.

Whitlock was born in London in 1931. He grew up in England and immigrated to Canada following college graduation. He resided in Milton, Ont. and famously put in his training at the Evergreen Cemetery, located steps from his home.

Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon
Whitlock on the 2016 Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon course, on his way to crushing the 85+ world record. Photo: Canada Running Series.

Alan Brookes, founder of Canada Running Series and race director of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, called Whitlock’s passing “an enormous loss to Canada and the global running community.”

“Somehow we thought Ed would just go on setting records forever,” Brookes said on Monday in a press release. “We grew up with Ed. He won many of his 20-plus-year-old shoes at our Series’ races in the ’90s and, in many ways, he defined our Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon. He will always be a vital part of the identity and spirit of that race.”

The Greatest: A visit to Ed Whitlock’s training grounds

Whitlock’s world records inspired millions of runners of all ages, and attracted attention to running from all around the world. His most recent marathon world record was one of the most talked about performances of 2016, which is especially impressive given that it was an Olympic year.

Ed Whitlock
Photo: Adam Wojtkowiak.

Age-graded, many of Whitlock’s marathon performances would have ranked among the greatest performances of all time. His 3:56:33 men’s 85-89 record last fall in Toronto is the equivalent of 2:08:57, which would have placed him second overall against some of the fastest runners in the world. His 70-and-over world record converts to a 2:00:18. The world record currently stands at 2:02:57.

Whitlock was famously modest and understated about his accolades. When asked about being celebrated around the world, Whitlock said “I don’t believe I should be a hero.” When asked what advice he had for other runners, he mused “I’m not sure what I’m doing is good for me, let alone anyone else.”

RELATED: Runners remember Ed Whitlock.

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story stated that Whitlock ran his final race in New York. However, it’s believed that his last race came in England at the Mob Match Ranelagh vs. South London Harriers event on Dec. 10. He ran 1:10:37 for 7.67 miles (12.34K) at London’s Richmond Park.