19 Oct

The Real Role Models

Not all world records are made equal, writes Chris Broadbent. Some merit greater celebration than others. Usain Bolt’s 9.59 for 100m can be compared favourably with Ann Atkins world record collection of gnomes, for example.

Where then do we place 85-year-old Ed Whitlock’s recent record-breaking run? The Canadian clocked 3:56:33 at Sunday’s Toronto Marathon. It broke the previous mark for the 85-89 year age group by more than 30 minutes.
 
Of course, it’s a long way from the actual male world record of 2:02:57, but for an octogenarian to run a sub four marathon, it’s pretty much super-human. Most people a quarter of his age would be delighted to cover the 26.2-mile distance in such a respectable time.
 
Whitlock is no stranger to age-defying running feats. He owns a series of veterans records from 1500m to the marathon. At the age of 73, he ran a sub-three hour marathon. 
 
A time that this 42-year-old scribe of 14 years running experience looks upon with admittedly envious eyes.
 
Whitlock’s time prompted me to take a look at the rest of the age-group world records and there are some truly remarkable ones.
 
Aged 40, Kim Collins of St Kitts and Nevis clocked 9.93 for 100m just last year. Israeli Ayele Seteng logged 2:19:32 aged 55 at the 2011 Rotterdam Marathon. 
 
Derek Turnbull of New Zealand has run 34:42.2 over 10k on the track aged 65 in 1992. Among the women’s world records, Japan’s Yoko Nakano ran 3:53:42 aged 76 at the Otawara Marathon. 
 
Wherever you look on the lists, there is inspiration galore to be found. The likes of Usain Bolt deserve every credit, but these incredible men and women are just as deserving of being role models who are truly redefining human capabilities. 
 
I am reaching a stage in my running life where the aches and pains play on your mind a little more. Admittedly, I resign myself to the accepted notion that my better running days are behind me. Then I look towards men like Ed Whitlock and I think again.