Ed Whitlock’s shoulder hurt. His face had been puffy. He did not feel well enough for the cemetery.
At a visitor’s urging, Whitlock showed his display of novelty trophies. A beer can for winning a series of races as a 60-year-old. (“There’s still beer inside!”) A coffee mug for becoming the first (and still only) person older than 70 to run a marathon in under three hours. A baseball for throwing out the first pitch at a minor league game.
“It bounced three times to the catcher,” Whitlock said a few days before Christmas. “My arm is terrible.”
It is not his arm, but his legs and lungs that have made him a scientific marvel and octogenarian phenom. In October, at 85, he set his latest distance-running record, completing the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 3 hours 56 minutes 34 seconds and becoming the oldest person to run 26.2 miles in under four hours.
Having set dozens of age-group records from the metric mile to the marathon, Whitlock remains at the forefront among older athletes who have led scientists to reassess the possibilities of aging and performance.