(TORONTO. 29 September 2003). What a day of excitement in Toronto! The sun
shone, the bands played along the course, 6,000 runners from 18 countries came
to run, more than $125,000 was raised for 32 charities, Lyubov Morgunova of
Russia set a new womens record of 2:36:20 on the flat scenic Lakeshore
route-and not one, but TWO new world records were set at yesterdays Scotiabank
Toronto Waterfront Marathon..
But it was two older runners who outshone the field. Ninety-two year old
Fauja Singh of Ilford, Essex, England, shattered his previous world mark of
6:11 [set at Flora London in April] with a new world record for 90+, of 5 hours
40 minutes and 4 seconds. Not to be outdone, Canadian phenomenon, 72-year-old
Ed Whitlock of Milton, Ontario, became the first runner on the planet, 70+ to
go under 3 hours with an agonizingly close 2:59:10.
Several thousand spectators lined the last kilometer of the course. And the
roar was huge as the nonagenarian Singh crossed the line to be mobbed by
ecstatic members of the citys South Asian community and the media. "I feel
great; Im really happy" exclaimed Singh after his record finish. "It
was very nice and I felt comfortable. I enjoyed the course and all the support.
I received a lot of respect from the South Asian community of Toronto, and Im
grateful for that. My ambition was to knock a minute or two off my record, or
get under 6 hours--I never expected a time like this." Singh attributes
his success to a healthy diet, including his favourite ginger curry, daily
meditation for relaxation at his local Sikh Temple, warm baths, and 10 miles a
day in training [running or walking].
Indeed, Singh looked decidedly more comfortable at the finish than the
Canadian record-breaker Whitlock. With his face cut and scraped from a fall he
took in training earlier in the week, Whitlock showed every sign of the
enormous physical effort to establish his remarkable record, his face grimacing
with pain as he leaned to the left and dragged himself down the final
straightaway. The crowd were on their feet as the seconds ticked by, and he
made it home with just 50 seconds to spare after failing by only 24 seconds in
his previous attempt on the "sub-3, over 70" barrier in May 2001
[3:00:24!]. "I was dead on my feet," said Whitlock. "I couldn
have gone much further. I had a real tough time doing the last 200
metres." Much appreciation was also shown to local club runners Mike
Bedley and Gary Kapitan who ran, respectively, alongside Whitlock and
Up front, Kenyan Joseph Ndiritu continued his domination on the Canadian
roads. He comfortably took the mens race in 2:17:50 from up-and-coming young
Canadian Jim Finlayson of Victoria [2:20:45], after half-a-dozen guys went
through the half in 66:51 on a perfect morning for running, then blew up [13
celcius at the start; no wind].
Much the same happened on the womens side. There, promising young Canadian,
Nicole Stevenson went for broke and an Olympic qualifying standard [2:32]. She
hit halfway at exactly 1:16, with a 40 second lead on Morgunova. The
inexperienced Canadian then paid the price for her courage as she faded hard.
She came home in 1:26, as the veteran Russian-a 2-time winner and course-record
holder at Honolulu with a 2:26 PR-- cruised in for the victory in 2:36:20.
It was a remarkable day for running in Toronto as well as Berlin, and
consensus was widespread that the Waterfront event signaled the return of
top-quality, marathon excitement to the city.
PHOTOS available on request, and at www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com