“Marathon Legend Drayton Wonders Why his Record Still Stands,” by Paul Gains

TORONTO. 23 September. A huge THANKS to everyone who showed up for our Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon Press Conference at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel this morning, to meet “The Canadian Contenders” — Reid Coolsaet, Eric Gillis, Dylan Wykes, Rob Watson and Matt Loiselle. This was a “first” for STWM and Canada Running Series, to have a “presser” more than a couple of days in advance of the event. There was a GREAT media turn-out, so I’m sure you’ll be reading about it tomorrow. Canadian Press, The Star, Globe and Mail, National Post were ALL there, as the excitement and buzz builds.  And we all enjoyed Reid’s response to a question from CBC TVs Scott Russell. Scott asked Reid about his strategy for October 16th. As he already has the Olympic qualifying standard [with his 2:11:23 run at last year's STWM] and only has to “prove fitness” with an IAAF-qualifier of sub-2:15, will he be running cautiously? Emphatically “no”, said Reid. “I’m coming to run fast and take a real run at Drayton’s record!”  

The magic 2:10:09!

I hope you’ll enjoy Paul Gains latest piece [below] on Jerome Drayton. He’s really the man who has defined Canadian men’s marathoning for two generations, as well as holding that 2:10:09 National Record since 1975.  What was so special about the man who set such a record 36 years ago, when training, shoes, diet, physio and every kind of support, were far less sophisticated than today? How did he achieve it? Why HAS it lasted so long? Will we see history made this year; will “the record” finally be eclipsed on October 16th on the streets of Toronto Waterfront?  “Chasing Drayton” is certainly a compelling theme of this year’s STWM, as well as the battle for Olympic qualifying.

You’ll also be able to hear more about it in a couple of great Panel sessions at our STWM Expo, where Canadian Running magazine editor Mihira Lakshman will moderate a lively discussion that will include such Canadian marathon legends as Peter Butler, Dave Edge, Peter Fonseca and Mike Dyon — all fine athletes who have “chased Drayton” over the past 3 decades and come up just a little bit short: 2:10:59 for Butler; 2:10:63 as Dave Edge likes to tell us of his PR; or 2:11:30 for Peter Fonseca.

I’ve go to get to work on OASIS ZooRun right now. Technical meeting for Athletics Canada National 10K Championships is at 19h00 tonight, Crew Call 04h30 tomorrow!

Marathon Legend Drayton Wonders Why his Record Still Stands by Paul Gains

 Records, it is often written, are meant to be broken. The man who has held the Canadian marathon record of 2:10:09 for almost thirty-seven years cannot fathom why nobody has broken his.

“I didn’t think it was going to last that long,” Jerome Drayton says. “Actually, I was hoping to break it myself but, at that time, with the 1980 Olympic boycott, my motivation was gone and I decided to retire.” 

Over the past few decades many talented runners have taken aim at the record. The closest anyone has come was Peter Butler, who ran 2:10:55 at the Sacramento marathon in 1985.

Drayton is 66 years old now and lives in Mimico, Ontario where he takes care of his elderly mother. In recent years he himself has suffered from osteoarthritis. He politely declined an invitation to appear as a VIP at the October 16th Scotiabank Toronto Waterfront Marathon where a handful of the country’s top marathoners could earn $36,000 bonus – $1,000 for each year his record has stood. Cataracts in one eye require immediate attention and he is scheduled to undergo a surgical procedure at the end of October. 

“I don’t understand why my Canadian Record still stands,” the man who was born Peter Buniak, continues. “You have a vast amount of information on training, physiotherapy and things like that out there. 

“I am thinking of Mike Dyon (Brooks Shoes Canada) who put up $1 million for a house in High Park where runners could stay rent free. He took me on a tour. I saw the facilities, nice whirlpool, and I thought ‘you have everything you need there.’ And, it’s close to High Park and everything but [the project'] fell apart.” 

Indeed, Dyon has confirmed the house will be sold. The marathon project has now morphed into a middle distance program as there were few takers on Dyon’s offer of free housing to help marathoners train full time. Drayton believes it takes more than facilities and money to succeed in marathoning.

 “You have to have motivation, self discipline and effective time management,” he laments. “I don’t understand what is going on.” 

Drayton set the record in winning Japan’s prestigious Fukuoka Marathon in 1975. He would win the race, which in those days was considered the unofficial world championship, three times. Despite a heavy cold he finished 6th in the 1976 Olympic marathon. He took some consolation in winning Fukuoka later that year, beating Olympic champion Waldemar Cierpinski in the process. He also won Boston a year later. 

This was an era of strict amateurism. There was no prize money and no appearance money. Like most of his peers he worked a thirty-five hour week job as a sports and fitness consultant at the Ontario Ministry of Culture and Recreation. In order to save time commuting he rented an apartment a short distance from his office. 

“I would be up around 5:30 in the morning, drink some coffee and watch TV,” he recalls.  “Depending on what phase [of training] I was in I would usually run 5 to 10 miles (8 to 16km)  in the morning at 7 minutes a mile. When I finished that I would take a 15 minute nap then after that get ready for work.

 “There were no training camps at all. I worked 9 to 5. After work I’d take a 15 minute nap before the workout then drink a cup of coffee. Then I’d do my second workout which would take anywhere from 6:30 to 8:30 or 9 o’clock. It didn’t leave time for personal life, socialising etc etc. I had just enough time to read the newspaper, eat, watch a bit of TV then go back to sleep. I’d wake up again at 5:30 in the morning. It was tough, especially when I reached 190 miles (300km) a week.”

 Drayton has so far not been approached by any of today’s marathoners for advice. In any case, he says, his training programs are posted on the website of the Toronto Olympic Club, for whom he ran for decades. Told that some of the leading Canadian marathoners run around 190 – 200km a week he shakes his head.

 “120 miles a week (190km) is not enough,” he declares, “not for a marathoner. For a 5 or 10k runner, I would say, yes. But you have to include one long run every two weeks. I would run around High Park about eight times, which would be 24 miles, just to get the stamina. I don’t know what some of these marathoners are doing today.” 

The African dominance had yet to be in full swing during Drayton’s career. Their boycott of the 1976 Olympics left him wondering how he would have competed against them. Two years later he faced an East African contingent at the Commonwealth Games where he earned the silver medal.

 “I do remember a Tanzanian beat me at the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton,” he recalls with a laugh. “He went by me like an express train. It was Gidamis Shahanga.” 

When he learns of the $36,000 bonus on offer for a Canadian record he is nonplussed. The best he managed as an athlete was free accommodation and some trophies. His ‘shoe contract’ with adidas was equipment only. All in all he says, running was a hobby. Drayton has advice for today’s Canadian marathoners.

 “I wouldn’t dare to rely on prize money, appearance money, sponsorships whatever they get these days. The athletics career doesn’t last long,” he warns. “You could get hurt. Unless you have something to fall back on, like a university education and can work part time, then start full time once your career is over, what are you going to do? 

“As far as the Kenyans and Ethiopians I remember when the money was starting to pour into the sport. I read that in order to support a family of four in Kenya it would take $5,000 a year and these guys were winning $50,000 and up. I can see the motivation for them to run. It’s their living. For a Canadian I would not advise it.” 

These days he has given up reading track and field magazines but follows the IAAF Diamond League, world championships and Olympics on television. Patiently, very patiently, he waits for the day someone beats the record.

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