Despite his advanced years – he was 86 exactly one week ago – the increasing numbers of people, doubtless running into millions who have got to know Ed Whitlock through his extraordinary feats over the last decade will be shocked and saddened by news of his death, from prostate cancer, which was announced by his family in Toronto this morning.
Any other 85 year old would have been ecstatic to run sub-four hours for a marathon, as Ed did at the Toronto Waterfront race last October. But when I met him in London in December, he expressed disappointment and bewilderment in equal measures at what he saw was an appallingly slow time for a man who had run 2.54.48 on the same course at the age of 74.
We had a series of coffee and cakes in a Thames-side café while we chatted, and he was funny, informative, inquisitive, self-deprecating, intelligently reflective and unfailingly courteous throughout our two to three hour conversation. And in common with my friend and colleague, Paul Gains who, like Ed is a British-born Canadian and introduced me to him (and sent news of his death), I thought he was, at best indestructible, at worst a candidate for at least another decade of mind-bending performances.
Ed said that he had a complaint for which he was seeing his doctor, but implied it was relatively unimportant. His demeanour suggested the same. And the fact that he was willing to spend time with me, and then go on to visit some changing London landmarks (doubtless much altered in the sixty plus years since his emigration) underlined that. Yet he did muse aloud as to why, in the last year, he had lost seven pounds (over three and half kilos) from an already body featherweight 112lbs (51kg). More news will develop in the coming days; but that London visit may well have been an impromptu one, to see his younger sister for the last time.
Whatever the case, I am honoured to have had the chance to meet such an over-achieving character, latter-day though his feats may have been. May he rest in peace.
Please see the obit from Paul Gains and the recently published two-part feature on Ed.