In October, Whitlock — now 85 — became the oldest person to run 26.2 miles in less than four hours after completing the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 3 hours 56 minutes 34 seconds, according to The New York Times. He set another record for his age group earlier this year when he completed a half marathon in 1:50.47.
“I believe people can do far more than they think they can,” Whitlock, a retired mining engineer who lives in Toronto, Canada, told The Times. “You have to be idiot enough to try it.”
While his race times are impressive for a runner at any age, Whitlock has actually been slowing down over the years. He ran this year’s Toronto Marathon at a 9:01 per mile pace, but at age 73 he finished at a 6:40 per mile pace.
“When you get to my age, the rate of deterioration is accelerating,” Whitlock told the paper. “I’m sure every year, every six months, make a difference. I don’t seem to be able to consistently train. Whether that’s a permanent situation, I’m hoping not.”
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Despite his slowing down, Whitlock is still able to run laps around a local cemetery for three to three and a half hours at a time. And he’s been able to maintain his incredible athletic ability without any special training or treatments — he doesn’t have a coach, follow a specific diet, get sports massages or even take any medications.
“We’ll see if I’m running when I’m 90,” Whitlock said. “You never really know if you’ve run your last race or not. I think I do have longevity in my genes, but you never know — you might get hit by a bus.”
For now, Whitlock plans on continuing to run competitively to keep experiencing the happiness that comes with crossing the finish line.
“The real feeling of enjoyment,” he said, “is getting across the finish line and finding out that you’ve done okay.”