Sunday, October 20, 2013

Toronto Waterfront Marathon attracts 25,000 runners

Octogenarian Ed Whitlock says the last kilometer of the Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon were “pure agony.”

But that didn’t stop the 82-year-old Milton resident from finishing the 42.1-kilometre marathon on Sunday ahead of runners half his age.

“I just put one foot in front of the other and prayed for it to be over,” Whitlock said.

He was one of 25,000 runners to compete in the marathon from 60 countries in the full and half marathons and the five-kilometre run.

“My tender old age isn’t happening yet. I will keep running because I am still stupid enough to enjoy it,” he said.

Whitlock was hoping to beat his own record time of two-hours, 54 minutes and 49 seconds for men over 70 years of age and only missed the goal by a hair because of a cold a few weeks ago.

“I’m OK now that it is over. I’m a tough guy but I was hoping to go faster,” said Whitlock, who had strangers cheering him on.

“It’s nice, but I think I’m too low key to be that inspiring. Running a marathon is internal,” Whitlock said.

Toronto-area runners proved they were fast on the streets, especially London’s Lanni Marchant, who toppled a 28-year Canadian record in the full marathon by 36 seconds.

The previous record was 2:28:36 by Oshawa’s Sylvia Ruegger, who was also the first to hug Marchant after crossing the finish line.

“It’s good for girls to see what is possible. I’m shocked it (my record) has stood this long, but I have the utmost respect (for Marchant) because I know what it takes to achieve this,” Ruegger said.

Marchant said she was “in shock” and “didn’t expect” this outcome.

Deressa Chimsa, of Ethiopia, won the men’s full marathon in 2:07:05 and Flomina Cheyech, of Kenya, won the woman’s in 2:25:13.

Eric Gillis, of London, Ont., qualified for the London Olympics at the Toronto marathon two years ago, and although he just missed beating his personal best with a time of 2:11:49, he was still the top Canadian and the fifth over-all in the race.

“I wanted to beat my personal best and just missed it. I’m pleased with my place but it makes me hungry to get stronger,” Gillis said.

Race Director Alan Brookes said it was such a great day for sport in Toronto that he had to “pinch himself.”

“The world watched as our international and Canadian athletes broke records in multiple categories. I couldn’t be happier,” he said.

Brookes said race organizers worked with local authorities and used other cities’ best practices to ensure there wasn’t a terrorist bombing like the one that devastated the Boston Marathon last April.

The race was also a family event for people like Whitby’s Victoria Derby and her eight-year-old son, Owen, who walked the five-kilometre course.

“I’m proud and I feel good. Next time I’m going to run it,” said Owen, who has cerebral palsy.

It is anticipated the marathon will pump more than $30 million to the local economy and bring in millions more for 186 charities by sponsored runners.

Toronto police say the road closures due to the race did back up traffic but there were no serious problems.
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