The gracious Ed Whitlock broke another World Record when 85 years old. Photo Credit: Todd Fraser/Canada Running Series

Last weeks news of the passing of Canadian running legend Ed Whitlock, prompted the following reflection – Robbie.

In 2003 at age 72 Ed Whitlock become the first person 70 years or older to run sub 3 hours at the marathon, with a 2:59:10 at the Toronto Waterfront Marathon. At 73, he lowered that to 2:54, and last October, at age 85, he ran 3:56:33 at the Toronto Marathon, becoming the first in person over 85 years old to break 4:00 and taking 28 minutes off the previous 85+ record.

How was Ed able to achieve such amazing feats?  As with champions from all walks of life, The Magic Comes From Within

Whitlock did practically all of his training in 5-minute perimeter loops of the Milton Evergreeen Cemetery, a short jog from his house. When asked why he chose that venue for training runs of up to four hours, Whitlock replied, “I would prefer not to run around in small circles day after day, but overall, taking everything into account, it sort of suits me. If it’s windy, I don’t have to face the wind for too long at any one time. If something happens, I can be home immediately. There’s nothing perfect in this world.”

 
Whitlock also defied convention in his approach to non-running activities, in that he did no stretching, strength training, or cross training. When he was injured, he simply stopped running until he felt able to resume his high-volume training. He followed no special diet, other than to eat enough to keep his weight up. Whitlock mostly ran in old shoes he’d won at races or had otherwise received; he said the racing flats he wore to break 4:00 at Toronto were 15 years old.

 
Whitlock said, “I realized in my late 60s that this silly objective of being the first person over 70 to get under 3:00 in the marathon was just sitting there waiting for someone. I thought it should have been done long before, but there it was, so I thought I should make an effort at it.”  Runners World

Incredible feats are not the sole (or soul!) domain of sports. When trekking in the Himalayas, visitors are sure to experience local sherpas / porters carrying towering loads on their backs, their packs sometimes heavier than their bodies. A 150-plus pound pack on a 125-pound man, and the sherpas carry their packs up and down mountains, day after day, year after year.



How do they manage such feats of strength and endurance? Lengthy scientific experiments and study offer little light, and can only conclude:

What these sherpas are doing, from our perspective, is sort of unimaginable, even for athletes. In Western society, we no longer have a real handle on what humans can do physically because we’re so far removed from this level of daily work that we physically can’t do it anymore. They simply go. And they keep going.  npr.org

Returning to the sporting arena, two coaches of champion runners that greatly influenced training methods, are Arthur Lydiard of New Zealand and Percy Cerutty or Australia.

‘It’s just a matter of understanding what’s necessary and to discipline yourself to do it.There is no need for a separate mental training program of affirmation and visualisation if it is inbuilt into the training program. There is nothing more confidence-building than the knowing of thorough preparation.’  – Arthur Lydiard


(left to right) Peter Snell, Murray Halberg, Barry Magee and Alan McKight training on the 22-mile Waiatarua Loop in NZ.

Likewise Percy Cerutty, who’s ‘Stotan’ philosophy sits at the core of his coaching philosophy –

‘I do not seek champions. I cleave to ‘triers’ who are sincere. The ‘lessor’ trying to become ‘more’ appeals to me more than the ‘arrived’ wishing to go further. It is the ‘overcoming’, not the ‘success of’ that is important. It is not the winning, it is the journey. It is not the ‘doing’ but the ‘trying’. All the world admires a ‘trier’ – and that is something we can all exceed at – to be ‘tops’ in being a sincere and punishing ‘trier’.

 
One must have tenacity, loyalty, be able to withstand physical hardship, know oneself, remain un-influenced by trends and dogma, and have informed intelligence.

 
To live this way of life is hard. It is not for weaklings. It is the way that is travelled by all the truly great ones. It requires strenuous effort of body and mind.  Fail, is not in my dictionary. I’ve got a good dictionary and the words ‘fail’ and ‘failure’ have been ruled out for years. I don’t know what people are talking about who use that word. All I do know is temporary non-success, even if I’ve got to wait another 20 years for what I’m after, and I try to put that into people, no matter what their object in life.’ – Percy Cerutty


Percy Cerutty – Maker of Champions!

Returning to Ed Whitlock, one additional characteristic is also to be observed. Ed was renown for his modesty and simplicity.

“I never know what to say to people who say, ‘You’re an inspiration.’ What do you say to that? I’m not an inspiring person at all.”

Truly an example of The Magic Comes From Within

 
References
Athletics – How To Become a Champion; by Percy Wells Cerutty
Why Die? The extraordinary Percy Cerutty, maker of champions; by Graeme Sims

 

 

Robbie Haywood is Director of Coaching at Trisutto.com.

Inquiries about Trisutto Coaching Certification can be made to: robbie@trisutto.com

 

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