As the Waterfront Marathon approaches, and violence in Saskatchewan dominates the news, I find myself missing and thinking about Ed. Ed, as runners in the community well know, is of course Ed Whitlock, the gentlemanly king of endurance running who rewrote the record book, and our preconceived notions, of what can be accomplished as we age.
Whitlock broke three hours in the marathon at age 74 and then he broke four hours at age 85, and he even broke the mile record at age 86, just a few months before succumbing to cancer. It’s not just that Ed was a supernatural athlete. What I find myself missing most is his grace. Decked out in his suit at the Waterfront Marathon, smiling with strangers and taking pictures, steering clear from sponsorships or attention and simply running his famous, endless three-hours loops by the cemetery near his home in Milton (“I like running in the cemetery because, compared to everyone else there, you look really good”), Ed taught us not only how to age, but how to live.
Courteous, gracious, fastidious, witty; focussed, generous, patient, tough as nails: Ed Whitlock was one of a kind, but that doesn’t mean we can’t aspire to some of his learned lessons. And here’s the thing about Ed: he looked like he was having fun! He loved the Waterfront Marathon. Loved Alan Brookes. Loved the Expos and run crews and racers visiting Toronto from all over the world. Ed was curious and humble; powerful and low key: it’s safe to say that Ed never ran in carbon-plated shoes.
Today my kids went back to school and soon enough I’ll be running my fall marathon. Time keeps on moving quickly and there’s ups and downs and seemingly a new tragedy occurring every day. Today I want to think about Ed Whitlock. We all face decisions as we face the world, racing. Ed Whitlock enjoyed the moment, and I wish the very same thing for you.
Photographs by Darren Calabrese.