Ed Whitlock did things that no one else had ever done and he did them in a way that reminded everyone how to live. Whitlock, 86, succumbed earlier today to prostate cancer, after having run his last marathon in October at the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in under four hours.
He leaves behind his wife Brenda, sons Neil and Clive, and his sister Catherine.
After his race in October, 2016, Ed walked to the train station at 85-years-old with his son after the marathon in the freezing cold. He ran 2:54 at 73 in a performance the New York Times ranked as the best marathon finish of all-time. He thought that his accomplishments could be improved upon and, among other things, he accepted no sponsorships and succumbed to no special training methods. He didn’t watch what he ate. He didn’t buy new shoes. Ed didn’t even say that he particularly liked to run. He said that he liked the attention — that his wife liked getting him out of the house — and that he thought other people should be running faster at his old age.
I’ve known Ed for a long time. For a story he wrote in iRun, he came to meet me in Toronto and showed up at Union Station in a suit. He also wore a suit when he gave his PowerPoint presentation at the Scotiabank Toronto expo. Ed famously ran circles around the cemetery near his Milton home. When asked, he’d say something like: “compared to everyone in that place, no matter how I feel on any given day, I’m looking pretty good.”
I once asked Ed what made a good marathon runner. He said: “Shine a flashlight through their ear. If a beam of light comes out on the other side, odds are that they’ll do pretty good.”
See, it’s not just that Ed had 25 world’s master records. That’s great. But it’s sports. Records are made to fall. Somehow Ed had something intangible, real. He wasn’t just approachable. He wore a suit when we showed up in sweatpants. Ed gave marathon running grace. And he didn’t take himself too seriously. And he smiled when he talked to you. Even when you asked him asinine questions, the same things he’d been asked over and over again — he took the time to listen. We shot him for the cover of iRun and we had to set him up again and again outside in the wind. Ed didn’t complain. I did. But not Ed.
The memories of his greatness come flooding back: you walk into his house in Milton and there’s a bunch of newspapers on the small kitchen table. A half-completed puzzle, which he said was Brenda’s. I remember him showing us his old leather cleats. I remember begging him to let me write his story.
Ed Whitlock made running approachable. He did impossible things with a shrug. He was the greatest runner I’d ever spent time with.
Ed Whitlock, legend. Your memory will always live on.