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Canadian octogenarians set world record in 4x800m relay in Toronto

In an age-defying spectacle at Toronto’s Varsity Stadium on Saturday, a quartet of Canadian runners in their 80s sprinted to a new age-group world record in the men’s 4x800m relay at the Ontario Masters Championships. Their time of 14:24 eclipsed the previous record of 16:01.

In an age-defying spectacle at Toronto’s Varsity Stadium on Saturday, a quartet of Canadian runners in their 80s sprinted to a new age-group world record in the men’s 4x800m relay at the Ontario Masters Championships.

Ed Whitlock on his way to a sub-3:00 800m. Photo: Dianne Kapral.
Ed Whitlock on his way to a sub-3:00 800m. Photo: Dianne Kapral.

Their time of 14:24 eclipsed the previous record of 16:01, set by a group of Australians in 2010.

The youngster of the group, 80-year-old Ray Wardle, ran the first leg of the relay and passed off to Bill Thompson, 83. Next up was Ed Whitlock, owner of many age-group world records from the 1500m up to the marathon. The 82-year-old displayed spectacular form as he cruised to a sub-3:00 800 split.

And in what was surely one of the most sensational moments in masters athletics, Whitlock handed off the baton to 84-year-old Earl Fee, who has 56 age-group world records to his name. The ripped-looking Fee pulled off a 3:04 to cross the line in 14:24 to huge cheers from the crowd, easily smashing the old record.

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Before the race, Whitlock said they’d be relying on Fee’s anchor leg to take them under the mark. But Whitlock, who was a top-class middle-distance runner in high school (he ran a 4:31 mile at the age of 17), underestimated his speed and ran about 5 seconds faster than Fee.

Afterwards, Fee joked, “I can’t keep up with Ed. He’s two years younger than me.”

Earl Fee, 84, heads for the finish of the record-breaking 4x800m relay. Photo: Dianne Kapral.
Earl Fee, 84, heads for the finish of the record-breaking 4x800m relay. Photo: Dianne Kapral.