Ed Whitlock, legend, R.I.P.

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    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. 

    18 COMMENTS

    1. Ed was a great and humble man who happened to be a running legend. My deepest sympathies to Brenda and the Whitlock family.

    2. I had the pleasure of running alongside Ed at one of the Scotiabank Toronto waterfront marathon. It was a great feeling to be running biside such a legend. I told him he was an inspiration to as all.
      He will be dearly missed.
      Our condolences to the whitlock family,
      Joe

    3. I ran the Toronto Waterfront last October 2016, and I saw Ed on the opposite side, I was around my 35km, I smile at him, and he smile back at me… I’ll take that image in my head with me when I’ll run the Boston Marathon next month. RIP Ed !!

    4. I did not have the pleasure of knowing Ed but i had heard about him on the news. he has inspired me to continue running. My deepest sympathies go out to his family and friends.

    5. Ed, you were the best marathon runner of all time. To run a 2:54 at age 73 was a miracle. My only regret, I never got to meet you although you lived only 30 minutes away. Maybe we can run in heaven. You will always inspire me. Thank you, thank you, thank you. May your family continue to feel the hope you infused as they grieve your passing.

    6. I had the great honour of meeting Ed a few times when he would attend the Great Raisin River Footrace, in Williamstown. Friends of mine, Sheila and Wendell Lafave, organize the race and a small entourage assist them. Ed was such a gentle soul, always a kind word, and had such a sense of wry wit. He would even arrive early to come help us set up the race site the day before the event. Often, he would participate in the 5k. But what really seemed to give him special glee was assisting in handing out the hardware, particularly to young runners. He will be so very missed.

    7. I’ve long been inspired by Mr. Whitlock and his amazing accomplishments and recently had the opportunity to share it with my children as we took in the tribute to him permanently displayed in the Milton Sports Complex (right beside some NHL guy who’s name I can’t recall lol). No surprise my kids were amazed by his story and simply said wow …. he makes you look bad Dad! Needless to say I’m gunning for a 2:53 @ age 74 to get their respect back!! To the Whitlock family, take peace and pride that Ed was such an inspiration to so many people and will continue to be for many years to come!

    8. I was lucky to meet Ed a few times at some community events in Milton.What a nice man,quick with a smile and easy to talk to.We have lost a good one.

    9. A True inspiration-I had the opportunity of racing with him a number of times ,a great human being

    10. Never met the man but now I wish I did. I can truly say he inspires me. At 53 I thought my best times were behind me but thanks to Mr Whitlock I know I can still perform. My sympaties to his wife and family. RIP Mr Whitlock.

    11. Je viens de lire quelques messages de oersonnes ayant également eu la chance de courir quelques minutes aux côtés de Ed…. je réalise que nous sommes plusieurs à lui avoir dit qu’il était une inspiration. À la réflexion, je pense que cela lui importait peu.. et ça c’est encore plus inspirant ! Quelle homme !

    12. I was sorry to hear we lost such an amazing guy. My condolences to his wife and family. Those of us in the 50+ and 60+ age groups looked to and got inspiration from Ed to keep running and to stay strong even though we never met him.

    13. Ed has been an inspiration to me for years. Ed will continue to be an inspiration to me and many others for many years to come.

    14. Ed, you’ve inspired me to go beyond my self imposed limits. I can’t thank you enough for all that you’ve done. My deepest sympathy to the Whitlock family. RIP Ed!

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