TORONTO. September 15th. Ninety-eight year old Fauja Singh and 78 year old Ed Whitlock are confirmed to join Joan Benoit Samuelson as "The Legends" at this year's 20th Anniversary Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon on Sunday, September 27th. Singh will run the Waterfront 5K and Whitlock the Half-marathon [21.1km] along with a record 20,000 participants in the whole event.
The British Sikh and the retired Canadian mining engineer re-mapped the limits of aging and captured the world's imagination on September 30th, 2003, when they took advantage of Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront's flat, fast, lakeshore course to set new world records. Singh ran 5 hours 40 minutes 4 seconds for a new 90+ marathon record; Whitlock ran 2:59:10 to set a new mark for 70+ and become the only septuagenarian on the planet to go under the magic 3-hour barrier.
"The marathon's Greatest Day! New World Records in Berlin and Toronto," boomed Amby Burfoot's headlines in Runner's World magazine. "A Day for the Ages."
Whitlock and Singh astonished the world, not only expanding the limits of what "Seniors" could do, but providing inspiration for people of all ages. This was everyone's Granddad breaking 3-hours, and your GREAT Granddad completing a 42km, full marathon in under 6 hours. They became "everyday Superstars", the talk of the global running community and the toast of the town. "A 92 year old guy called Fauja Singh just made everyone in Toronto look like the 'Tool of the Day' today," said Q107s celebrated radio DJ, John Derringer, on the Monday after the race.
Both Whitlock and Singh returned to Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2004 for even more magic. Fauja set a new World Record for 90+ in the Half marathon, of 2:30:02. Ed astounded the world when he took his mark down to 2:54:49. He remains the only person over 70 to go under 3 hours. "Ed and Fauja fever" took hold, as Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon went from 935 entries in 2003 to 1,938 in 2004. The event as a whole went from 5,863 to 9,001.
"Not just Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, but marathoning in Canada as a whole owes a LOT to Ed and Fauja," says Race director Alan Brookes. "Today, STWM is arguably the most exciting marathon in Canada with an IAAF Silver Label and global recognition. But it began with Ed and Fauja. In the US, the UK, Germany, Japan, Korea, France, there's a mystique about 'the marathon'. It's become THE life-achievement of the everyday person in our era. That certainly hasn't been the case in Canada, where we've focused more on Participaction, doing a 10K or maybe a Half marathon. But Ed and Fauja are about excellence. About the pursuit of excellence regardless of age or other perceived limitations. 'Don't underestimate yourself' is Ed's message. YOU can do a marathon, and put it on your list of the Top 10 Things you have to do in your life. Don't be the Tool of the Day! That's the spirit of our event, and we're proud that Ed and Fauja have infused STWM with this."
On September 27th, Fauja Singh will be joined in the Waterfront 5K by Amjit Singh and Amrik Singh, both British Sikhs over 80 years old. A large posse of children from the Guru Gubind Singh Children's Foundation will also accompany their nonagenarian hero. Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone will start the Waterfront 5K at 10:20am in front of the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place, then jump in and walk the 5K to Nathan Phillips Square for his neighbourhood charity, St. Christopher House. Deputy Premier, George Smitherman, who has previously completed both the Waterfront Marathon and the Half, will run the 5K for his neighbourhood charity, the Cabbagetown Youth Centre.
Mayor David Miller will join Ed Whitlock and Joan Benoit Samuelson in the Half marathon, running for a family charity. Councillor Karen Stintz and Ontario Liberal Chief Whip Mike Colle will be running the full 42km marathon. Colle completed last year's Waterfront Marathon [4:59:24] for the Foundation Fighting Blindness -- his chosen charity again this year -- while Councillor Stintz is going the distance for Providence Healthcare Foundation.
EVERYONE in the GTA is invited to come out to "Run, Pledge, and Cheer" as a participant or spectator at this year's 20th Anniversary Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon, Half & 5K, Sunday September 27th. Combined, the record 20,000 heroes expect to raise more than $1.5 million for 99 local charities on the day, and maybe set a few more new records. Online entry and pledging, plus further information on the best locations to watch, is at www.torontowaterfrontmarathon.com.