In any marathon, there’s always a significant group of runners who aim to break the 4-hour mark. At 70 years old, Gene Dykes is not one of them. Instead, he chases the sub-3-hour goal.
Dykes, who only began seriously running marathons at 58, according to Canada Running Series, turned heads on Oct. 21 when he ran the Toronto Waterfront Marathon in 2:55:17. In doing so, he came within 30 seconds of the late Ed Whitlock’s 2:54:48 70-74 age group record, which Whitlock set at 73 years old.
Dykes is now just the second person 70 or older to run 26.2 miles in less than three hours. Born in Ohio and living in Philadelphia, the retired computer programmer who holds a PhD in biochemistry credits his improving-with-age times to hiring coach, John Goldthorp, who re-worked his “long and slow” runs and incorporated more speed work and cross-training.
GENE DYKES | 70 AÑOS | 2:55.17
En el maratón de Toronto.
— Tigers Running Club (@club_tigers) October 29, 2018
“I would always feel like, I’m old, my muscles are sore, and I should rest,” Dykes told Running Magazine, even though he was only training three to four days per week.
“That’s half of it,” Dykes said. “The other half is, even though I would never think I could get through these workouts, I would rather die than report back that I couldn’t do the workout.”
That accountability piece has paid off and then some. Dykes posted a 3:09 finish at the Boston Marathon, and his solid base has enabled him to compete in ultra events and multi-day stage races. In fact, in 2017 he was one of about a dozen people to run the “triple crown” of 200-mile trail ultras, meaning he finished the Bigfoot 200, the Tahoe 200 and the Moab 240.
Before Whitlock passed away from prostate cancer in 2017 at the age of 86, Dykes met him and had the chance to hear him speak. And that’s a big part of what fuels his training now.
“It isn’t so much to get [the record], but to motivate the training,” Dykes told Runner’s World. “I train real hard. Just to train hard for hard’s sake, that’d be tough. But having a goal in mind helps.”