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Two World Records set on Toronto Waterfront

two older runners outshone the field


(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 Singh.

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

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