It is one of the great mysteries left in Canadian sport.
How is it, in this day and age, when athletes are full-time professionals with substantial financial and scientific resources at their disposal, that a Canadian marathon record set more than 36 years ago can still stand?
That is the puzzle that 67-year-old Jerome Drayton presents.
He came to our CBC studios the other day to talk about the record he set in Fukuoka, Japan, at the unofficial world championship, on December 7, 1975.
The time was a then sparkling 2:10:08.4. It's about seven minutes slower than the current world mark, which is held by Kenya's Patrick Makau. Still, over the years Canadian men have not been able to come within half a minute of Drayton's time, making it the oldest athletics record still on the books in this country.
"In my day it was strictly amateur rules," Drayton recalled. "You couldn't make money off the sport. I had a full-time job, so I had to do my training before and after work at six in the morning and six at night for a total of four hours a day. It got to the point where I was running 10 miles before my job then doing another 17 or 18 after."
Indeed, when he was building to a big race, Drayton logged about 190 miles a week. That was considered a massive amount of effort at the time, and observers still marvel at Drayton's work ethic, not to mention his single mindedness.
Drayton was a three-time champion at Fukuoka, and he won the coveted Boston Marathon title in 1977. He also finished sixth at the Montreal Olympics in 1976 despite fighting a chest cold contracted the day before the biggest race of his life. For a time in the mid-1970s he was ranked as the top marathoner in the world, ahead of iconic runners like Frank Shorter and Bill Rodgers of the United States.
But, in speaking with him that day, it appeared Drayton derived little joy from the actual running of the races. Each seemed more like a mountain to conquer.
"You don't talk in a marathon to somebody else like it's a social run," Drayton said. "It's just 100 per cent concentration on the marathon itself. To explain the agony of the marathon to someone who has never run it is like trying to explain colours to someone who was born blind. You've got to experience it."
Drayton himself can be elusive.
We offered him a lift to the studio to conduct the interview, but he politely insisted on taking public transit. He arrived sharply on time, dressed in Team Canada athletic garb and wearing running shoes. He relied on a cane, the result of advancing arthritis in his knees. It's a common affliction for runners who have traveled as far on foot as he has.
Drayton came with a little card in a plastic cover. It had all of his statistics and achievements listed on it. He never showed it to us, but rather left it under his chair as he went to do an interview with my colleague Teddy Katz of CBC Radio in the next room.
We returned the card to Drayton when he had finished his visit. Maybe he was too shy to foist it upon us. Perhaps he used it as a reminder of all that he had accomplished over the course of his career.
In any case, it is an amazing resume, revealing his status as a legendary figure in Canadian sport; a man who was born in Germany at the end of WWII as Peter Buniak and who immigrated to Canada to become a distance runner.
He chose a new name for himself and is thought to have taken it from two sprinters he admired: Olympic medallists Harry Jerome of Canada and Paul Drayton of the United States. He often competed while wearing dark, aviator-style sunglasses and revealed very little to his rivals.
Jerome Drayton was a fierce competitor, and he remains immensely proud of his record. For the first time since 1996 and the Atlanta Games, three Canadian men - Reid Coolsaet, Eric Gillis and Dylan Wykes - are entered in the Olympic marathon. It presents the very real possibility that the oldest Canadian athletics record will finally come down.
This is a record that Jerome Drayton has personally held since August of 1968, when he acquired it in the Detroit Marathon. That means he has owned the Canadian standard in one of the Olympics' iconic events for more than two generations.
"Yes, it's good," he said when asked about the current group of runners knocking on the door of his record. "It's unfortunate that it took such a long time. I wouldn't be surprised if a Kenyan or an Ethiopian would win the Olympic marathon, but I hope they get a medal out of it. Get my record too. Hey, that's fine!"
Drayton chuckled at his final words.
He donned his baseball cap, shook hands and thanked us for the interview. He made his way back to the streetcar and headed for home.
The mystery of his marathon mark remains.
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