The History of Marathoning in Canada
Paul Gains chronicles our nation’s marathon history, with a look toward the future.
Canadian marathoners have long made an impact on the world stage, turning in great performances in some of the biggest races on the planet, from the early days of Tom Longboat through to groundbreakers, such as Silvia Ruegger and Jerome Drayton. Paul Gains chronicles our nation’s marathon history and looks toward the future.
Forty-two kilometres is a very long way to run unless you’ve undergone months of preparation. Even then, a marathoner can turn up on the big day and encounter multiple variables that conspire against his or her desired result, such as weather and inadequate fuelling, tactics or pacemaking decisions. To be the very best marathoner in the world is a phenomenal achievement, but what is the yardstick? Before there was an official iaaf World Championships, the world’s greatest marathon runners descended on Fukuoka, Japan each December in this marathon crazy country. Winning Fukuoka was a special achievement, which earned one legendary status. When Canada’s Jerome Drayton won the race in 1975, breaking his own Canadian record with 2:10:09. Never did he expect that his time would still be in the books 43 years later. Undoubtedly, Drayton was the world’s premier marathoner for a time and certainly set the standard for serious Canadian runners to follow. The longevity of Drayton’s record, though, has largely overshadowed his stellar career. He won Fukuoka three times, as well as the 1977 Boston Marathon. He took silver at the 1978 Commonwealth Games, and finished sixth in the 1976 Olympics despite being ill. But Drayton’s record has eluded many Canadians, including the man who has come closest to beating it, Reid Coolsaet. The Hamilton, Ont. resident ran 2:10:28 at the 2015 Berlin Marathon.